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by W. Mahlon Purdin

She was one in hundreds when she was born.
In a world of slithering, awkward, creepy
Brothers and sisters all destined to a life anonymous,
Although all kings and queens in their way in their world.
To passersby either unseen, or terrifying,
They all lived lives of sudden attack and slack, longbodied rest.
In the hot summer days finding water was always an issue
Because water brought others, and it brought them out in the open.
And when eyes were on them, danger was everywhere.
In the skies it lurked like lightning out of nowhere. This killed some.
On the ground, the swift-footed mammals were death afoot. This killed some.
And even in the water as their forked tongues licked the precious fluid
There lurked sudden strikes that dragged them down. This killed some.
Just moving around there was danger on the black, hot roadways. This killed some.
Even resting in their hidden netherworld crevices there could be digging and scratching
Until claws and teeth reached their soft scaly skin. This killed some.
But the years went by and she grew and had her own hatchling neonates to add
To the long process. And then one July day she curled up in a perfect coil
And died from nothing obvious. In fact she seemed to be alive.
I looked at her, tail tucked in, head resting on her circled body, neatly stowed
Away. I poked her gently with my pen. Nothing. Again. Nothing. I looked
Closely. Eyes open, tongue hiding, a majestic pose there in my parking space.
I got the pen under her and lifted her up, balancing her long 18-inch body
And placed her on the grass. When I came out, the birds and bugs were on her
And it was clear to me that nothing would be wasted.
I am still thinking about her, her life, and her death. Soon, I will stop that
And get on with the day. After all,
It was just a snake.


Posted on 08/01/2010
Copyright © 2023 W. Mahlon Purdin

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by George Hoerner on 08/01/10 at 05:33 PM

You give snakes a far better tall tail - tale than most people would. Though for the most part of if you leave them alone they will do the same for you. But don't step one.

Posted by V. Blake on 08/02/10 at 04:42 AM

As I read through this, I started off thinking it was about some far-off dystopia, but then it subtly morphed into something that seemed very present and real. Very nice work.

Posted by Linda Fuller on 08/03/10 at 12:34 AM

This is a wonderful poem - sensitive and intelligent. Your last three lines have me welling up.

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