Trooper and the Cottonmouth
by Jennifer Armentrout

It coils there, motionless, not wanting to strike.
We almost mistake that cottonmouth for a length
of rope.  On either side of the gravel road, tiger lilies
shake their orange heads in warning.  From behind
Trooper comes limping up on his three legs, puts
himself between us and the snake, and barks.
There’s so much white at the bends of his elbow,
his muzzle, I’m amazed how well he dances
circles around the thing, causing it to turn and turn
its unmistakable open mouth like a bloom to the sun.

Before I can call him off, he hammers his one
front leg down on that cottonmouth’s head.  Stunned,
it can’t dodge Trooper’s bite or his sharp whip-lash
snapping of its spine.  This is why puppies worry
blankets in the middle of the night: some prescient
sense to protect.  Trooper paws at the severed pieces,
chuffs his victory.  We scratch him behind the ears,
tell him what a good dog he is.  I let him keep
the tail to gnaw on but dig a little hole for the head.


Jennifer Armentrout grew up in rural Virginia.  She earned her
Bachelor of Arts degree from The College of William and Mary,
where she studied Comparative Literature, Ancient Greek, and
Anthropology.  After graduating, she relocated to Seattle, Washington,
where she works for IBM as a Lotus Notes Developer and
Administrator.  Her work has appeared online in
The Adirondack
and Rock Salt Plum Review and in print in The Wolf and
Orbis.  Armentrout is currently writing her first book of poetry and a
collection of short stories.  She is the co-founder and editor of
, an online literary magazine.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 2, Number 2
(Fall 2007)

Copyright © 2007
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.