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The stark black shadows bleed into the sand
as the Full Moon knifes the Joshua Tree;
the Desert Wind whips through the brush
and ululates its glee
as it sighs out a sad sound
like the shore of the sea.
The inky-black sky frowns on a land dry and sere;
a small bird quivers amidst the Jumping-Cactus quills,
knowing death is near.
The Sidewinder flinches as I step near him in the dark,
but he decides not to kill me.
My lamp reveals death's near miss
as I turn toward the rattle and the hiss.
The viper locks his eyes on mine
and for one moment we are brothers;
seeing that I mean no harm, he unwinds from his coil,
and slithers slowly and calmly away.
The gale continues unabated
as The Full Moon sinks towards the sea;
the longest hour stretches on,
and the Mojave continues to be.

Robbie Hatley, 1994

This poem was inspired by an incident in which my friend Lee and I were both almost bitten by a rattlesnake while we were hiking northward through "Rattlesnake Pass", as we afterward called it, west of White Horse Mountain, in The High Mojave Desert, at midnight, under the light of a full moon, during a gale.

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