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  • Lea Harper

Poem: The Annotated Snake


The fundamental snake

is an arm without a body,

the ornament of bloodless embrace


more exquisite

than the hilt of a Persian dagger,

husk of Indian corn –

the cold rustle of unsheathed danger,

Kali’s necklace with its rattle of skulls.


The mortal snake

is the essence of entanglement:


a turned-out intestine –

glut of ancient fear,

the fragile neck of a swan

in the savage garden,

a severed umbilicus

lost to both worlds.


A slumbering snake

Is the shadow of a lifeless branch,

invisible seam of the quilted desert,

arc of the moon, sculpture in grass,

a river run dry, a vein of blown glass,

an unspun mandala, a circle uncast.


The prophetic snake

is the tongue of the fallen god

incanting Ouroboros,

Uraeus, caduceus, Kundala –

A sinuous Z

Fluid as fire, final as the dust,

A tail of a comet that ran out of time.


The modern snake is a condom,

the future tied up in its domed head –

All those little lives that won’t be born

because there is no antidote

in the dark human blood

against the sting of its own kind.


”The Snake” appeared in the author’s first collection, All That Saves Us, Black Moss Press, Windsor, ON, 1998.


(c) Lea Harper, 1998

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