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.