Escaped Cobra Owner Jailed

 “If we would have just had a lock on the cage… There wasn’t a lock.”
                        -Lawrence Matl

From an extended stay motel’s breezeway
in Arlington Texas a week after strapping
a massive bag to the top of our old car
and driving a thousand miles east to meet
an orientation deadline by mere hours,
we watched a stormfront race across the sky
at us—the tilting of rain more visible than
the hundreds of grackles temporarily roosting
in the parking lot’s lone tree. The air thick
and hot. We hadn’t yet heard that a mile away
a West African Banded Cobra had escaped
its enclosure and was loose near the school
where I was scheduled to start teaching.
At that moment we were only slightly
concerned about being struck by lightning
or that we were now standing at the tail end
of Tornado Alley with two fronts clashing
overhead. We kissed as large drops plopped
the world we’d landed in with the percussion
and speed of a punk rock drummer, and
in the suburbs south of Dallas, somewhere,
one of the most venomous snakes in the world
slithered. He had a permit, but not a lock
for the enclosure where the danger rope
resided, then absconded from. How secure
he must have felt, to leave the cage latched
but unwatched. Guessing at its safety like
Terry Kath. Teaching public school while
Covid was still killing thousands a week
was arguably more dangerous than a single
snake slithering in the area, quite possibly
within the owner’s hollow walls—yet—
for weeks the news couldn’t get enough
of warning me that the banded cobra still
stalked me. Everywhere I went. Might go.
And the owner of the freed snake spoke,
lived as free as his cobra. All through
winter with one whole snowstorm which
iced the streets and gave the Texas students
a rare snow day—weather that would
wring the last heartbeat from any cobra,
and only once we snuck into February with
its eighty-degree afternoons did the man
who was so nonchalant with his cobra see
a cell, mourning the likely death of his pet.

About the Poem

When I first moved to Texas to start my first year teaching high school, within a week the biggest story in the Dallas-Fort Worth was about this escaped venomous cobra. The headlines lasted for months reminding us that the snake was never found. Then just this week the Grand Prairie Police arrested the former owner of the snake, while again reminding us all that the cobra could still be out there, waiting.

About the Author

Zebulon Huset is a teacher, writer and photographer. He won the Gulf Stream 2020 Summer Poetry Contest and his writing has appeared in Best New Poets, Portland Review, North American Review, Meridian, The Southern Review, Fence and others. He publishes the prompt blog Notebooking Daily, and edits the journals Coastal Shelf and Sparked.

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