To the Snake, Anon

My reply to Jilly’s reply to the Denise Levertov poem, “To the Snake“. Full text in-line below.

 

To the Snake, Anon

Eat thine own tail, Ouroboros!
As I must eat my tale
and know we began only to end infinity,
leaving just our stories forever
twined, wrapped, twisted
as the caduceus we made in the forest,
our bower of staff and wings.

Would you shed me so easily?
Do you not taste of your venom?
Your lie forks your tongue
that such pleasure was not love,
the brush of our skin immortal.

My garden flowered with too much joy;
I cannot regret now
what I will bear alone.

 

The Snake’s Keening
by Jilly

Bright Girl, when you plucked me from
the grass and round your neck I hung
felt your seering warmth
and whispered in your ear the secrets
of a serpent’s curse
the weight of sin and shame I bare
wounded in your ears —

Bright Girl — I swore to my scaled children that certainly
you were sinless! But truly
I had no hope of ever passing your heel, only desire
and be held by you, for that thrill,
which bereft
of guilt, as the grass closed
behind me, and you with that dark
assurance in your eyes,
I shall never share.

 

To the Snake
by Denise Levertov

Green Snake, when I hung you round my neck
and stroked your cold, pulsing throat
as you hissed to me, glinting
arrowy gold scales, and I felt
the weight of you on my shoulders,
and the whispering silver of your dryness
sounded close at my ears —

Green Snake–I swore to my companions that certainly
you were harmless! But truly
I had no certainty, and no hope, only desiring
to hold you, for that joy,
which left
a long wake of pleasure, as the leaves moved
and you faded into the pattern
of grass and shadows, and I returned
smiling and haunted, to a dark morning.

William Wordsworth: Parking Attendant, Weehawken, NJ

Lincoln might be in the Bardo –
where spirits wait bewildered
in their Rubber Room souls –

But William Wordsworth is outside 
in my parking lot
waltzing with language and cars –

Foxtrots of Kias, nouns, and verbs,
Fords and Acuras tango with adjectives –
insensate and doleful dip and turn,
 
While the drivers, like inmates
of ballroom dance class, trip on overgrown
iambic feet, hoofing to Glen Miller.

In Spring he will gently blow adverbs and romance
into pistils of foxglove,
until magnolias faint in jealousy.

For him, Death is no purgatory, no dotage, 
he is as lucid as yellow,
as sharp as a blackbird quill plucked in flight,

Far less bewildered than I
between this world and the next –
if he writes of eternity, it must be so –

Poems to guide us
with the half-life of Uranium 235 –
fissile at room temperature –

Nuclear reactions of sunrise
breaking like egg yolk over the hillside –
Ten thousand daisies runny with light.

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM

Me/Her/Wind

I’m a tornado of bees,
a cyclone of buzz and hum
You have more sharp turns
than a toboggan of hornets
I’ll rattle your mullions, believe you me,
love storm of the century.
The sky is seasick
with hurricanes
We’re the full catastrophe,
no atrophy
No apostrophe,
no trophy
You ring in my ears like dynamite,
like a fight between samba and flamenco
Oh Nagasaki, oh hot ginger,
oh Ali‘s rhumba in the jungle
More fun than a barrel of mimes
tipping over Niagara
You are handcuffed to wind,
laughing about mortality
Eskimo my nose, my toes,
cuddle is the new tundra
The windows leak ghosts,
whistling for their supper
But this is a love poem,
gorgeous with leaves turning cartwheels
Rain weeps through the cracks in my hands,
wanders the damp maze of my bones

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM

86 That

Go ahead, tell your sob story to the spoon
and the coffee cup,

how your addiction to night sky
started with poetry, the gateway drug, 

and now you are mainlining – 
shooting stars – your veins twinkling

with broken bottles
and shards of Christmas lights.


Go on, lament to this plate of eggs
and Tabasco

the fate of words like tigers 
performing tricks 

with what's left of the magician's sleeve,
or the sound of violins

playing blackjack
on their shoestrings, hit me.


I listen to your sling, your hash,
your blather spread

on whole wheat or white,
your second, or third, or fourth marriage

to sonnets, to Surrealism, to Whitman,
feeding the doggerel scraps

under the table,
stumbling down 12-steps 

into the void.

For Shay’s Word Garden and TSM