Catherine Abbey Hodges

Mountain Garter Snake

There you were again, slipping away so imperceptibly
I wouldn’t have seen you had I not been on the alert.
After four sightings in a week of your sleek darkness
and lightning stripes, the silent parting of grasses
as you whipped away under arches heavy with seed heads,
I’d come to think of you as a tacit friend. Today, though,
when I stopped short to admire your swift passage, you too
stopped, then raised your severe head on your slender
neck, which is also your body, above the litter of winter’s
sycamore leaves and spring’s tangle of vetch, and I heard
myself gasp. For a minute or so, we regarded each other,
both of us motionless. Some time into this arrangement,
I thought something like Now we’re getting somewhere,
we’ve crossed a threshold, and was happy and awestruck
and grateful. But as I kept my gaze on you in your ascendance
above the tan leaves, the green net of vetch and the purple
blossoms like tiny bells, I knew I’d mistaken the threshold,
that I knew next to nothing, and you not at all. That you’re
a mystery familiarity won’t solve, only deepen. And after
you returned to your errand, your realm, I stood there long
in the changing light, happy and awestruck and grateful.

There’s a Day

There’s a day you want back—
not to change anything,
just to live it a little more awake.
But of course that would change it.

Leftover Sonnet

On the slope below my window, a man
in a blue t-shirt and grass-stained jeans
is pulling weeds. Oh! It’s the one I married,
the boy with the curly hair and sweet voice,
a few decades on. October afternoon, warm
breeze. At breakfast we agreed to reheat
last night’s curry for dinner, leftovers
having emerged as something of a theme for us.
As in: what’s left of us, now the kids are gone.
As in: suppose we take what’s left and kick
it up a notch, now the flavors have settled in.
As if he’s heard my thoughts, he looks up at me,
grins, waves a fistful of filaree my direction
before he tucks and rolls down the hill.

Catherine Abbey Hodges is the author of three full-length poetry collections, most recently In a Rind of Light (Stephen F. Austin University Press, 2020). Her first book, Instead of Sadness, won the Barry Spacks Poetry Prize from Gunpowder Press. Professor of English Emeritus at Porterville College, Catherine is a staff reader for SWWIM and an advisory editor for Anacapa Review.