While Housesitting for a Family Visiting Bordeaux

I am rinsing mango juice off my
thighs when I notice its slim

body shimmying before me,
slicing through the crisp,

chlorinated water with ease.
When the light hits just

right I catch a glimpse
of its reddish-brown pattern:

copperhead, cottonmouth,
small vessel of venom.

I watch as it bellies up
to the blue tiling along the sides

of the pool; wonder how long
we have kept each other

company in the water before
I noticed it, if it had

slithered through my hair,
if I had momentarily become

Medusa, myth of a woman

serpent extending
from my head that is too

consumed by ensuring all
the plants get watered on

these five thousand square
feet of land and that the aged

bottle of Sangiovese I sip
from each night here alone goes

unnoticed as I play house, wipe
the granite countertops, fetch

the mail, check the locks on all
eighteen doorways before sleeping

in the son’s second bedroom
swathed in sheets of Egyptian

cotton. I listen in to the sounds
of the marsh several steps

behind me: fiddler crabs
scurrying across the pier, each

weighted by the clicking of their
dominant claw, slick fish jumping,

for a quick moment suspended
in air. Each splash surely the flick

of a snake’s tail pushing itself
through the swamp but instead

it is here, inches from the soft
skin of my neck and pretending,

too, that it belongs in this place.

Dakota Reed

Dakota Reed lives in Charleston, South Carolina, where she is an MFA student at the College of Charleston and editorial assistant for Crazyhorse magazine. She grew up in Atlanta and studied English at the University of Georgia. She is the recipient of the Woodfin Fellowship and winner of the Poetry Society of South Carolina’s fall 2019 Nancy Walton Pringle Memorial Prize.

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