i stopped and stood still

one morning, manong ang i
went to our swidden farm
to pick mushrooms.

“arm yourself with a stick,”
he commanded while demonstrating
how to whip right and left
when walking along grassy trails
to scare off snakes.

“but if by chance we encounter one
just hold your ground, and your guts
will send the snake flying in fright.”

when we reached the first bunch
of bushy bamboos, we saw a tudtud –

a worm-like snake, wiggling
its way around fallen leaves
and tiny blades of grass.

holding my breath,
i stood still at once.

when i looked at manong
he was just as small as a mushroom –

scampering amid the clouds of dust
his bare feet spewed out.