Sunday, May 27, 2007

Today's poem - Snake by Emily Dickinson

by Emily Dickinson

A narrow fellow in the grass
Occasionally rides;
You may have met him, -did you not?
His notice sudden is.

The grass divides as with a comb,
A spotted shaft is seen;
And then it closes at your feet
And opens further on.

He likes a boggy acre,
A floor too cool for corn.
Yet when a child, and barefoot,
I more than once, at morn,

Have passed, I thought, a whip-lash
Unbraiding in the sun, -
When, stooping to secure it,
It wrinkled, and was gone.

Several of nature's people
I know, and they know me;
I feel for them a transport
Of cordiality;

But never met this fellow,
Attended or alone,
Without a tighter breathing,
And zero at the bone.

We think we can trace the influx of snakes (common garter snakes) to upheaval caused by Tom building a patio last summer. Ever since, they are everywhere. The other day I saw one in the vegetable garden and thought, "snake in the Garden of Eden." Then I saw one in the grass and thought, "snake in the grass." They are on the terrace steps sunbathing every morning. We hear the rustle in the daylilies. I'm frightened and fascinated at the same time. It is indeed the "sudden" movement that scares me. I love the way she says "zero at the bone" for what we would say "chilled to the bone." Do you suppose that was the expression then, or was this the poet's language? The way she describes the grass moving as if combed is perfect.

I take hundreds of photos, discarding most of them. The closeups here were not taken with a zoom. The lens was about 3 inches from the snakes. Mellow fellows. You may (or may not) wish to click on the pictures to see them better.


  1. He or she is very pretty! I love the Emily Dickinson poem; I had never read it before. I haven't seen a snake yet this year. They are good friends to have in the yard, I think (at least the garter snakes that we get most often.)

  2. Wish I could borrow one or two. They are great in dealing with slugs in the garden - we have lots here! Unfortunately, we have a lot of cats in our neighbourhood and I think they have depleted our snake population. I like them from a distance!

  3. I hadn't either Aisling. Tom found it for me as he used to teach it years ago. I think it is just wonderful.

    Peg, do cats really eat snakes? I can't imagine!

  4. Les, I'm doing pretty well. It is mostly the surprise factor that alarms me. I know they aren't harmful, and I really have amazed myself at my interest.


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