Serpentine Syndrome

I’m a sucker for serpentine, its savoir vivre, its hidden
horizons and horn of plenty, its rocky refusal
to honor the dead, to alter its wardrobe even one day

howling in pews while the preacher mops
the chapter house. We drove so far to arrive,
mocked up in our innovative pants, our brimmer hats
cinched so they wouldn’t flutter back to Patagonia,
tying Berluti knots in the Sunday dawn
with the mountain imposing

like the sea before Moses did his tricks. You have to love
bite-sized vegetation, love your fingers enough to work the loupe.
You have to understand nitrogen, understand the holy ghost
metallic recursion. You have to understand carnivory, the pitcher plant
turning its neighbors into meatloaf. You have to understand
silicone and talc, hyperaccumulation, the acute angle to keep
your green face in the sun, how to make yourself

appear useless, uninteresting, just a faded scar
with a boring backstory, all the tissue on your shin
that may be from bike pedals or may be from sliding
on the gravel path. You always walked away
because that’s what kids do. Only adults
get overthrown by a runny nose or despair the tyrannical
splinter, only adults zip over the mountain pass
without even glancing side to side.