Friday, September 6, 2013

Zero at the Bone

Emily Dickinson's thoughts on snakes

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.

This particular narrow fellow is harmless -- except to mice and the occasional small bird. But oh! how Emily nails that feeling I get when surprised by any snake. The monkey mind screams danger and I shudder.

The feeling passes quickly -- once I've made sure it's not a poisonous snake.  I can pick up a big blacksnake when necessary to get him out of the chicken house (or the house -- yes, it's happened.)

But I have to quiet the monkey mind and remind myself that the snake is a fellow creature with every right to go about his business -- though when that business is eating chicken eggs, that when I step in to relocate him.

Fascinating and beautiful creatures -- and so very other.


Ms. A said...

I hate to tell you this, but you photos didn't post... again.

Thérèse said...

"Relocation" sounds like a nice word when applying to snakes :-)
What a nice poem. Can't see the pictures, I have no idea why...

katy gilmore said...

"wrinkled and was gone" - that's perfect also. This weekend our daughter-in-law who is from Thailand was mightily frightened by a Washington snake (harmless) that "wrinkled and was gone" nearly on her foot as she walked a path in the woods!I loved this ED reminder!

Brian Miller said...

ah i get it as well...having to calm the monkey mind when i see one...the flight or fight instinct...i am not bad with snakes...unless i fell in a pit of them then i might be freaking out completely...ha

Vicki Lane said...

Curse you, Blogger! I'll try to put the pictures in...

B. Rogers, Living in Black Mountain said...

The monkey mind even recoils (interesting word for one vertibrate vs another) just seeing in pictures. Maybe the almost stepped on once reminder is also there. Love the Dickenson! Photos there just fine now.

Ms. A said...

Love the rock wall, the snake... not so much. YIKES!

Mel said...

Love the Dickinson poem, I'd never read it, but I also know the primal fear a snake surprise generates. I scream, which I would otherwise never do, and that scares me even more, my unexpected fear response.

When I was a child I would run toward a garter or hog nosed snake to pick them up and play with them, but my adult brain has regressed. This summer in North Carolina, I encountered my first rust colored garter snake, and I had to convince my monkey brain that it was not a copperhead and was harmless. At least this time I didn't scream :)

Tammy said...

And to think they are all around, quietly watching..from the trees, and the bushes and... ha. I'm okay with snakes too, but will admit to screeching if I come upon one unexpected--but I do that with mice too..or spiders.


NCmountainwoman said...

I'm the same with snakes. But there is always that tight breathing until I know it is not poisonous. I love Emily Dickinson. One of the best things about Kindle is that I can carry around her complete works. I have found many wonderful poems I had never seen.

Linda@VS said...

Ever since I first heard that Emily Dickinson's poems could be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas"--and then, later, to the tune of the "Theme from Gilligan's Island"--I haven't been able to read all the way through one of them without singing it. Singing about snakes somehow makes them seem as friendly and appealing as bunnies.

Kath Marsh said...

I'd forgotten how perfectly poetry captures human feeling.

Monkey mind. You are so right! Primal fear even when we know better.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, Linda, what have you done! Yes, it works quite nicely with Yellow Rose ... and if I can just stop myself from looking up more of her poems to try this...

Suz said...

nice stone wall

jennyfreckles said...

Giggling at Linda's suggestion - must try that! But oh yes, snakes are VERY other.

Mel said...

In a wee bit of synchronicity, this nice piece of writing about snakes was in my Longreads feed today:

Anonymous said...

Yes, we've had several narrow fellows visit us both in the house and the studio. Big ones at the studio and little ones in the house, fortunately all nonvenomous. I don't like to touch them but can handle them with tools.
Thanks for the poem! One of my favs, Vicki. This is a really good post.
Have you had any poisonous snakes on your property? We never have.

Vicki Lane said...

Deana -- I saw a copperhead in our garden a few years ago -- and my son and DIL have had a bunch down around their house. Always mindful...