SCOTT T. HUTCHISON
A simple water snake, no venomous incisions,
but his jaws have blown open wider than barn doors
in a hurricane wind—and the catfish that’s he’s lugged
onto the highbush blueberry shoreline
drowns in the unkind air beneath the spot where I’m picking.
I hold still for a moment of disbelief; my world
contains the smug prospects of pie and pancakes,
I’ve spent a ravenous year waiting for this
sweet blue emergence along the lakefront,
and now my summer bliss contains the slither
of predator and the agony of displaced prey.
I step closer—the snake abandons us both,
dives back with a relaxed and empty maw.
The struggle-flinch catfish will surely become
snapping turtle or racoon fare, perhaps three
opportunistic crows will sail in when I depart
and begin quick picking, a breakfast served up
beneath a chorus of berry-song from small flitting birds.
I choose to give the catfish one more chance,
flop him back into the shallows—in that selfsame moment
a contorting bass leaps from the water at my feet,
a slinky serpentine undulation pursuing
this newest meal’s ill-considered escape plan.
I’m startled, spill my almost-full gathering pail, which bounces
into the indifferent lake, sinking my hopes. The snake
sees me once again and ripples away, a hunter
still hungry. And I wonder if he knows an empty anger,
if he glides on a hatred for creatures who deny
his appetite and need. A scanning eagle screams
from a watchful cloud above me, and I imagine
his keen eyes have caught the spasmed fear
of this second fish out of water. I have nothing to show,
nothing but a few insignificant mouthfuls
to quell my cravings. I take the taste.
Sweetness—toss the bass back in, a fruitless gesture.
Scott T. Hutchison’s work has appeared in The Chattahoochee Review, The Georgia Review, and Split Rock Review. New work is forthcoming in Kestrel, Louisiana Literature, Cumberland River Review, Aethlon, and Tar River Poetry.