The snake hunts and sinews
his way along and is not his own
idea of viciousness. All he wants is
a fast grab, with fur and a rapid
pulse, so he can take that fluttering
and make it him, do a transfusion.
They say whip or rope about him, but this
does not give the idea; nor
phallus, which has no bones,
kills nothing and cannot see.
The snake sees red, like a hand held
above sunburn. Zeros in,
which means, aims for the round egg
with nothing in it but blood.
If lucky, misses the blade
slicing light just behind him.
He’s our idea of a bad time, we are his.
I say he out of habit. It could be she.
by Margaret Atwood
from Selected Poems II; 1976-1986
Houghton Mifflin, 1987