At first it seemed unreal, the sidewinder coiled
and writhing on the trail we’d peaked, trilling
its sibilant rattle. And then we came to our senses,
understood what the locals had told us:
that you never forget this sound, hiss dissonant
as venom, thin as crickets’ chirp. And so we retreated,
did as we had been told to do, celebrated our small
danger. Only later—passing an hour in the reptile house,
teasing a mournful warning from one caged—did we
relent, meet one another’s eyes, and shudder.
Graham Hillard is the founding editor of The Cumberland River Review and an associate professor of English at Trevecca Nazarene University, in Nashville, Tennessee. His work has appeared in 32 Poems, Apalachee Review, Fugue, The Journal, Puerto del Sol, Southern Humanities Review, Tar River Poetry, and many other magazines.