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Evolved by Renee Cronley



I am who nature needed me to be.

      Humble beginnings—

a nomadic misfit living outdoors,

perpetually hungry until I

was claimed by water and earth.

      The rain came

and pelted the path before me,

ushering me to a rising river,

gifting me with gills and fangs

before it spilled into a swamp

and washed the soil away

from the banks like dishes.

      I love a clean plate.

Now I have a home.  A family.

And I am never hungry.


I lick the Spanish moss that hangs

from branches of bald cypress trees,

and practice my ever-sharpening instincts

with the water moccasins

that wind down the tree trunks.

I scavenge old carcasses and plant remains

with pygmy sunfishes to keep our land

nutritionally dense, so it thrives.

      I am part of a delicate ecosystem.

            I belong.


I’m warming myself on a rock,

snacking on a diving beetle

when I feel a vibration

racing through the wetlands 

and the water ripples with distress.


A mechanical, man-made sound,

from a world I almost forgotten

finds its way back to me.

      A bulldozer?

The threat crawls down

my back like a careful spider.

      Steel-toe boots

stamp into the soil and kick up

fresh green moss carpets

and turn over nurse logs

that were mothering new seedlings.

      I am who nature needs me to be.

The glands in my tail give off

a foul odor of suspense

that stops him in his tracks.

I coil up, fangs protracted,

      and strike.

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