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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 8, Number 4, December 2014

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Marcyn Del Clements
Claremont, California, USA


Shining Shield

Riding my new bike downhill along the San Gabriel River, I spot two road-killed snakes. Brakes!

They're California Mountain King snakes . . . deep reds, shiny blacks, quartzite whites. Start to take pictures of them and one is alive! As I click the shutter, the black head rises up about 3 inches, cobra like, to sense me, tongue flicking across my breath. Then moves off. I turn, take a photo of the dead snake, lift it from the blacktop and curl it in a life-like "s" shape away from the road.

A few more shots in its more natural setting . . . then the live snake has moved through the grass toward the other. The King goes right to the dead snake, tonguing the face, the body, the spilled guts, moves around it in a half circle. Finally slides off, and turns to face me in the long grass. I knew they were harmless, non-venomous snakes. Later, back home, I googled them and read their scientific name, Lampropeltis zonata, means "shining shield", "zone-banded." Heavily collected by snake lovers. I see why.

breath of wind—
a black tail slips
into ferns

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