Diamondback Tales

Watch out for diamondbacks when you smell
rotten cucumbers in the woods, the woodsman said.
Not just diamondbacks, it’s the general rattler smell,
but it’s those big fellows that’ll strike you most dead.
I knew a guy saw a diamondback stretched the whole way
across a two-lane road. I can tell you, traffic stopped.
And my sister-in-law, when my brother got up, she rolled away
from the side of the bed, and what did she see but a seven-foot diamondback plopped
right smack on the sheet. I can tell you she fell on the floor real fast.
Though it’s not so much roads or houses or beds where you get ‘em a lot,
but in leaves like this, under trees like this. Walk past,
you could step right on one, curled up like an Indian pot
of mad design. Nine out of ten, he’ll slide out to the wild
before you see. He’s not vicious, just long, long as you.
He can strike the throat of a tall child.
Keep a nose with you.

Kathryn Paulsen writes for page, stage, and screen and works as a freelance editor and teaching artist. Her prose and poetry have been published in West Branch, New Letters, the New York Times, and a variety of other magazines, newspapers, and literary journals. For fiction and playwriting, she’s been a fellow at Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and other artists’ retreats. Her novels are represented by Sam Hiyate of the Rights Factory. Currently a New Yorker, Kathryn grew up all over the country (as part of an air force family) and has shallow roots in many places.