When I Started Dating Jim

Courtesy:  Brigette Bloom

Courtesy: Brigette Bloom

he had two rattlesnakes in the house—
big winding things like the roads
cutting north over the mountains, 
where he lived in an tan adobe house
facing the highway. Their names were
Pecos (as in Bill) and Maureen (as in his ex-wife, 
which should have been a sign) 
though which was which
was never clear. He kept them
in an aquarium meant for tropical fish. 
Filled the bottom with glass beads
from the pet store. Fed them mice
he'd catch himself in traps out by the shed. 
Even milked them sometimes, holding
the arrow-shaped head, letting the venom drip
into a glass vial. He had hundreds
of these—I found them in a drawer
soon before I decided we were done.
He loved those snakes, though who knows
if they noticed. They didn't care much
for each other—battling for territory
of the tank almost constantly, 
the rattlers waking me the night
sprawled and sweating on the old sheets
thinking they'd finally broken loose
and come for him, for me—
diamondback scales rippling
in the faint tank-light. One day
Pecos finally killed Maureen
(so he said, though perhaps
it was Maureen who had killed
Pecos). Jim threw the thing
into a dried-up riverbed. 
I drove back to my house
with the radio off,
wishing for rain
—a flood.