Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Missing the narrow fellow

The whole purpose of walking in the woods is to leave longing behind. I walk to take pleasure in what the world offers, not make demands or chase fantasy. I try to avoid making my time outdoors a hunt for interesting specimens or experiences. My task is simply to be there and accept whatever gifts come my way.

And yet, lately I find myself yearning for an encounter with a snake. I investigate every rustle in the grass with a little hopeful flutter in my chest. Any snake would do. A 4-inch ringsnake crawling across the trail would satisfy me. It seems unfair that I haven't met one. They've been out and about for weeks. I see them along the highway nearly every day, and a good-sized black rat snake turned up in our front yard (dead, alas), but they've been AWOL in what should be their proper habitat. One will probably appear as soon as I stop looking, but I can't seem to banish the craving in the meantime.

A narrow Fellow in the Grass

by Emily Dickinson

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 –
But when a Boy, and Barefoot
I more than once at Noon
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.

Text from Poetry Foundation

Snake Charmer, Henri Rousseau, 1907


leopoldo said...

The best poem about a snake ever. Knocks DH Lawrence well into the long grass.

BitterGrace said...

True. I think Emily v. David Herbert is no contest, even though I do have a soft spot for him.

chayaruchama said...

I love snakes, and- as often-
Long for your daily marshy, moist treks.