The Pond Snake

by John Grey

Mid-summer row on the pond,

and a snake is coiled in reeds,

hands on paddle freeze

as my vessel idles side to side.

How unnatural

this perfectly natural sight.

There’s space between us,

a few feet of rippling salvation.

It’s not going anywhere

and, for a moment or two,

neither am I.


Maybe, sometimes,

beauty is in the eyes of fear,

the kind of trembling that knows better,

that flattened head,

those dark eyes,

as harmless as the mallard

that scoots away

from the devil it sees in me.


But there’s no denying

the way that one snake

is every snake of the elongated,

legless, carnivorous

suborder serpentes,

and all phobias can congregate

around a glassy stare,

forked tongue and fangs.


With sweaty rowing hands,

I nudge slowly away from the snake.

The reptile stays put.

Distance is mine to keep.