Halfway along a rutted dirt track, down
to where waters meet, salt to fresh, the car
bumping and rattling slowly through dry heat
and sand, we jerk to a sudden shocked halt.
No zebra, this, but a huge snake crossing,
dust-ochre and deliberate: Cobra!
Not especially hurried, no interest
in me, he goes about his fixed business
of searching for a mate: it’s breeding time
and thicket is doubtless where he’ll find her.
No hint of threat perceived or offered,
no hood or cape, no venom load, no death,
this is exactly where he’s meant to be,
at home. It’s we who trespass, intrude,
we who meddle, yet he leaves us untouched.
Whether from respect or fear, I cannot move…
then breathe once more, relieved, quaking, creep on
in first gear, dust stirring. But wait – brake, brake!
Ten metres farther – fifteen? – she too glides
but from the other side across the path,
equally unperturbed (at least by me),
so sure of her beauty, leading him on.
Is she smiling? I could think so. Does she
watch him brave the dance floor, does she flirt?
Of course she does, as he, hapless devotee,
trails in her wake, bemused, befuddled, in thrall
to the same erotic music that I –
decades past – heard and hummed beneath the trees.
Midway along this rutted dirt road, down
to where the waters meet, all our knowledge