I don’t remember Garda in that summer,
The color of the lake, what sky there was.
I’ve seen the slide of Mother with sunglasses
Inside a crater we scooped from the sand
To hide ourselves from the mountain wind.
And my father gone, this time to Venice.
A snail on an apple leaf I can recall,
And a German boy I later hit with a hammer.
I’m told it was lovely that June among the grasses —
That, evenings, we heard strands of music fall
Spattering across the lake from the far shore.
One day I sat with my toddler sister
Sucking blue-striped figs on the dock’s landing,
Toes angling close to the skin of the water.
A black snake unspooled from the reeds;
His gleaming muscle doodled dreamily
Toward us, sunlight trailing off in feathers.
We raised our heels and let him pass beneath,
Watching him thrust along, unzipping the water.
Mother caught us (was she out of breath?)
Snakes are bad, she shook us with a kiss.
A black one’s bite will kill you.
Off the dock she drove us at a trot
Up to the open gate, and locked us out.
previously published in The New Criterion