David Lloyd

When the Snakes Arrive

My mother walks from the porch to the backyard
to scatter a fist of wildflower seeds
she gathered as a child.
There is a twinge of pain.
She is afraid of movement in the hedge.

The seeds descend, sink through grass
into damp soil, then break open, their shoots
pushing around her feet. She calls them
by name: bluebell, Welsh poppy,
foxglove. The stalks harden
and thicken, sprout leaves,
ranging roots, so that around my mother crowds
a sudden forest with foliage so dense
no rain can reach her.

This is when the snakes arrive,
migrating to the wildflower forest
from distant fields and pastures,
slithering at great speed across roads,
through ditches, under cover of hedges
to curl around her legs like cats.

She lifts one, holding its head
with one hand, its twisting tailend with the other.
It flicks a pink tongue and speaks:
“We have waited,” it says,
“for so long.”