They say we come into this world afraid
of snakes no matter whether venomous
or not. Avoidance is the way we’re made,
although this truth may have eluded us.
In ignorance we may have thought our fear
a lack of fortitude or a moral flaw.
But now we know about the hiss we hear.
Our shuddering conforms to natural law.
Today I walked along a country road
encountering a lifeless coil. I said,
“I’m not afraid,” as feet unbidden showed
a path that led around a snake so dead.
It’s strange the way instinctive dread persists
long after natural foes no more exist.
If I were deaf I would watch the motion of branches
and think the trees nod “yes” to some delightful question.
If I were deaf I would be amused by the caprice
of an autumn leaf dashing across the gravel driveway.
I am not deaf and when the unrelenting wind
conjoins with everything within my hearing,
I remember my enemies and lose all peace of mind.
A life in wind-driven country
taught you to lean forward, head down,
trained you to narrow your eyes.
You got used to a wind blowing cold.
Now you lament being bent and old.
You chose where to live, truth be told.
Nancy Harris McLelland taught creative writing, composition, and literature for over twenty years and Conducted writing workshops for the Western Folklife Center, Great Basin College , and the Great Basin Writing Project . An Elko County native with a background in ranching. McLelland has presented her "Poems from Tuscarora" Both at daytime and evening events at the Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko. Her essay, "Border Lands: Cowboy Poetry and the Literary Canon" is in the anthology Cowboy Poetry Matters .