morning walk : learning the snake dance

this morning, most mornings
first light, while the kettle warms
i take the short dew-walk
barefeet through the garden
up the drive to the goathouse
to open the door for the day,
release the two hens with
their twenty two chicks between them
let the goats out among the trees
scoop scraps around the bales
for the rabbits

after tea there will be feeding
and watering and attending
but for now – first light
this is enough.

some mornings
are more wild than others –
when i returned to the goathouse
an adder was resting
in the soft threshold sun
maybe the length of my arm
potent patterned beautiful
perhaps she had slept
the night among the bales.

puff adders are territorial
they choose a place and live there –
a goathouse is not a good home
for a puff adder –
too many goats
too many dogs
too many early mornings late nights
barefeet in the twilight –
too many patterns and
spaces among the bales.

we do not kill here,
we live alongside –
night adder and boomslang
and herald and more,
but puff adders are slow to move
quick to strike
and sometimes lethal.
she had to find another home.

gumbooted and elder-staffed
i watched her, peaceful
she slept a slow river
in the sun-warm dust.
watched she did not slip away
among the bales while
my daughter phoned the snake catcher
they have release permits
for puff adders in wild places.

slowly she became
aware of my presence –
tasted the air with her dark adder tongue
pulled her tail a little closer –
settled in the sun once more.

the snake catchers, all four of them,
were unavailable.

some mornings
are a little more wild than others
and some things need to be done
whether we want to do them or not

i watched, cautious as a cat
watched her scale ripple and silent
as she folded along a log,
rested her adder head
on her broad scaled back
and watched – time passed
while we watched each other
and i wished my tongue could speak her –
explain my actions
on this quiet morning in spring –
but the space between stretched
silent as skins pinned up to dry.

i meant her no harm,
but when my intention
shifted from watching to capture
she saw me for the danger i was
and darted towards the goathouse,
to shelter.

i intercepted
tried to lift her with the three pronged elder staff –
but she turned muscle coil and movement –
swimming light through the prongs.

and so our dance began –
her leading me following
slowly slowly moving her
from the goats who watched
slow chewing behind the fence –
she darting and hiding –
invisible among tree root and leaf litter –
quiet among the undergrowth –
watching and being watched
until eventually flicked into the open road
where i could half lift
half herd her into the plastic box
laid leaf littered and waiting –
tip it upright
click on the lid –
adrenaline surge laughter – done.

i would rather not capture
her patterned coiled beauty –
rather not move her away away
potent patterned coiled
but she lives too close to wild
to unspeak our mutual danger.

she is the wild silence
the dream-time dancer,
the old medicine
shedding life and death,
the watching and the watched
potent patterned coiled.

For Brendan at Earthweal’s weekly challenge: A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE.


19 thoughts on “morning walk : learning the snake dance

  1. What a fabulous poem Lindi. I was breathless as I read of you capturing the snake. The vitality in both you and the snake shines through your poem and brings your African life closer to mine.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Suzanne. She was a young beauty for sure – we live fairly rural in the buffer zone of a national park – snakes in the goathouse is not the usual South African lifestyle.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The poem walks us from waking to encounter, a wild dance and on through, so that by the time we are through a puff adder queen is royally attired and all of us rooting the wild margin breathes a sigh of relief. We who live further back from the wild can afford the humane response, but you’re right — “she lives too close to wild / to unspeak our mutual danger.” Happy there was triumph for both sides of that walk.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is as wild as it gets. What a fabulous read this was. I saw and felt it all. LOVE the beautiful closing stanza. Hope she is happy, somewhere farther away. A wonderful poem!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Sherry. I asked lots of questions before I sent her off. I think they have a good release site for them without much human interference. There has unfortunately been a lot of vegetation clearing on a property higher up the road – lots of wildlife displacement, I think we are in for quite a snakey summer if spring has been anything to go by.


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