Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thin as Our Fingers
(Turning Flowers to Garbage)

A lake appears along the trail, above the cliffs
and pounding surf beneath. Bounded by cliff-side rocks,
it stretches nearly as far as we can see. Huge,
like the ocean below, but calmer. More welcoming
than the crashing waves of the sea. The trail
enters the lake and continues out of sight under the water,
as yellow as the yellow brick road in the Land of Oz.
I plunge in, eager, excited. Warm as air, the water
caresses me. Soft. Buoyant, delightful. I exhale, sink into it,
and rise again. “We can swim to the left, we can swim
to the right!” I tell you. And demonstrate. A smile
blossoms on my face and fills me with light
like the first sunny day of spring. You hesitate, then follow,
slowly. Wade, then swim. Then smile, too. We drift together,
above the yellow path under the water. You laugh,
bob, sway, almost seem to dance, until you see
the snakes. Green snakes, hundreds of them.
Some are as thin as our fingers, some as thick and long
as our arms and legs. The snakes float on the water like lily pads,
hold only their nostrils above water, heads suspended, tails dangling
like the long stems of water lilies. I swim and glide among them,
easy, relaxed, smiling. No clouds crowd the horizon; the sky
wears the clearest, deepest blue robes imaginable. Reflects
the endless blue water. But you stiffen. Hang back.
“Look,” I say, “they are harmless.” Snakes surround me,
and pay me no mind. Still frightened, you refuse
to swim forward. Suddenly, you yell and splash at the snakes.
In an instant, they all rear up, draw scaly lips back
to expose their fangs and hiss. They charge us both.

Mary Stebbins Taitt
For Keith and Janine

Snakes in the Water

Read more about the dream that caused this poem at my dream blog, Hidden Rooms.


Steve Emery said...

Wow - this was powerful stuff. The image in words is so pleasant and dreamy, so when the snakes rear up it's such a shock. Not surprising, somehow - I was waiting for it. Maybe that's why it was so strong when it came...

The visual image is startling, too.

So was this from a dream? It has the qualities of one.

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Yup, from a dream. A dream that hung with me for several days until I wrote this!

Thanks! :-D