Apr 10, 2014

Snakes, Stealth, Beauty: Emily Dickinson, D.H. Lawrence, A.E. Stallings

In my April 5, 2014 post about Jamaal May's "Hum for the Bolt," we were feeling lightning’s sneaky approach, its skill at getting near us before we realize it, then flashing a bolt of awareness and probably fright. Speaking of sneaky things that can be scary, yesterday I got my first photos of a snake, an Eastern Garter Snake, so I’m offering these three poems about snakes. I’ve posted links to them before, but not recently, and each fine poem is worth revisiting: Emily Dickinson’s “A Narrow Fellow in the Grass,” D. H. Lawrence’s “Snake,” and A.E. Stallings’ “Momentary.” 

One oddity I’ve noticed about poets is their interest in and fondness for snakes and crows, two creatures most people fail to love. I wonder if poets and artists have a penchant for loving what the mainstream eschews or even despises and demonizes. Why might that be?

I’m having a lot more luck with liking crows than snakes, but the fellow I met yesterday demonstrated serpentine beauty more than any of the (very few) snakes I’ve seen before. His colors, his lines, his absolute silence and silky smoothness in movement were stunning. I was having a big moment, but he was perfectly casual. Maybe I bored him.

We looked at each other for several seconds. I had room to pass him on the left, but I figured he could whip around on me if he felt like it, and I didn’t know what kind of snake he was, had no idea about his the potential for venom—or simple pain. No one else was around.

Attractive, slender and modest, maybe three feet in length, he looked as un-menacing as a snake can, which to me is till pretty menacing. I know the experts say they’re more afraid of us, blah blah. Experts screw up all the time. Just ask GM, Wall Street, and M.D.s who can’t decide about Vitamin E or eggs.

Ever the comedian, I hissed at the garter snake to shoo him away from my path. He gave me a look. In Snake, I’m pretty sure he said, “Are you shitting me?”

So I was about to take my chances with stepping left, far left, when he slid away like poured oil.

Back at home, I went of course to Wikipedia, and found information about garter snakes that was absolutely fascinating. Rather than going on and on (who, me?), I encourage all to check it out. The infinite variety on this single planet is stunning—an old idea, but one that gets refreshed over and over if we shut up and look. And get lucky.



Anonymous said...

I'll look at the links later because your piece can stand on its own two feet. Enjoyed this very much -- words and pictures. (For what it's worth, I like both snakes and crows.)

Banjo52 said...

Thanks, AH. Yes, the poems are less essential to the post this time, esp. since they've been here before. But I do like all three, and they could not be more relevant.

You, snakes, and crows--and you're literary!

-K- said...

Yes, as Karin said, your piece can stand on its own two feet, unlike the snake.

Also, I clicked onto the photo with the head of the snake and nearly fainted.

Banjo52 said...

-K-, Feedback comes in many forms. The prospect of a walking snake is good, but until now I had not considered fainting as a good thing, but that's how I'm hearing it. Thanks.

Julie Brown said...

I think snakes are interesting, but have only photographed one once. I certainly do not want to be close to them either!

Stickup Artist said...

I don't like snakes. I mean, they're interesting if out of striking distance, but we have lots of rattlesnakes; they are really scary and dangerous! But, I kinda like crows. Your photos are from a place I used to know, but now they look so foreign. I really do like looking at them.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I'm more weary of crows. Because they're carnivores - and cagy - and they look at you in a way that kind of feels as if they're looking through you. Plus they kill the mockingbird babies.

Snakes, especially rattle snakes I have a fondness for and rescue them whenever I find them in peril. Sunning on trails where I fear the next hiker will be some macho asshole needing to prove something to his girlfriend. Plus I love to make them. My snakes are nothing short of wondrous.

Rune Eide said...

I envy your photos of the snake, whatever the kind it was. You know your camera. It was fascinating about the crows and the snakes. I have never heard about that connection, but then we have very few varieties of snakes here and only one of them is (not deadly) poisonous. On the other hand, I have a special respect for gulls - which not everyone has.

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