I grew up in between two tiny towns in Texas. My home was surrounded by sorghum, corn, and cotton fields. Neither of my parents are farmers, but they chose to settle there because my dad is an amateur astronomer who values the dark skies. Though light pollution keeps increasing and the surrounding area is being developed rapidly, the isolation and ruralness is mostly intact. I visit my parents’ house often to work in the garden I created as a way to alleviate my restlessness during the most restrictive and uncertain times of the pandemic. It’s helped me attune myself to nature. Worrying over my plants and their needs decenters my own anxiety. Through gardening I am reminded that I must bend to nature’s will—I must not be tyrannical in my approach. It’s necessary to work alongside the many bugs and animals that already live in the yard. I can discourage them from one area by providing better food elsewhere. I can nurture my plants by providing beneficial companions. It’s a balance. Coronavirus is part of nature too and will do everything to survive even if folks pretend it doesn’t exist. We forget there are things in this world we can’t control through sheer will and hubris. We have to adapt accordingly.
I hear the shout before the shot.
K slings a dead diamondback on the wire fence
like hanging clothes on a line.
Out here, we don’t trouble danger
until it arrives at our feet.
People say you can count the rattles
in sets of 2 or 3 to know a snake’s age,
but I wonder about time. A birth button
is what they have before their rattles grow.
I like to think that all it took
was the button to be pressed,
then presto, rattlesnake.
I once thought I could remember
my own birth. My screaming punctuality—
I want to say the word death
in relation to myself
but it feels like even breathing
the word could take me out nowadays.
Time accelerates. Each day
feels like a footprint of the last.
A hawk swoops into the sorghum
brings a field mouse into the sky.
Out here, there is no death button.
Death often comes quickly
without the mercy of a shout.
Laura Villareal is the author of Girl’s Guide to Leaving (University of Wisconsin Press, 2022). She has received fellowships from the Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts and National Book Critics Circle. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, AGNI, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere.