There’s a snake in the Garden of Eden.
A fat copperhead.
I saw him this morning.
And I must not amount to much,
because he wasn’t bothered enough
even to bite me.
Instead he siddled away, s-wise, slowly,
scaly belly to the fertile ground,
while I, I froze in place, my hand
on a broad squash leaf about a foot
from where had been his head.
Freezing in place, of course, long-term,
for me is the biggest temptation,
ageing as I am, and suddenly counting the years.
Oh, yes, he tempted me, that snake.
For hours, later, far into the dark night,
long after he had coiled down
somewhere underground, he spoke, as it were,
his sibilant voice making me
shudder and quake and, yes,
think to freeze in place. Permanently.
What did he say, you ask?
Simply freeze in place.
Don’t move. Don’t act. Don’t think.
Just give all that up. Give it all up.
It’s all just too, too much.
Not just the garden, everything.
So much work. No rain.
For what? Who cares?
Do you really think you benefit anyone
with your on-goingness, with
your persistent presence in people’s lives, with
your reaching deep into the uncertain dense
canopy of, say, cucumber leaves, or, say, minds,
to pull up, in hand, perchance, not a cucumber,
but a writhing six-foot water moccasin,
its gleaming, all-seeing eyes set square back
on its black, triangular head,
seething with poisonousness?
Give up. It’s too much. All too much.
Useless. Dangerous. Exhausting.
Enervating. Meaningless. Hopeless.
So speaks this snake,
the one coiled in my head.
The real one was, perhaps,
actually kindly, that fat red fellow.
He didn’t bite me. He could have, too,
Easily. Important it is, to distinguish
him from the him in my head,
full of archetype, myth, misery.
The snake in the biblical Eden also said “give up,”
Of another kind. Yes, Eve was not tempted to freeze exactly,
for she was tempted to act, if not to think, to eat the apple…
but in doing so what did she give up?
The snake’s constantly hissing message then was,
give up on the peacefulness that comes from being content
with the amazing abundance you already have,
give up on the the awareness that, well, that enough is actually enough.
The snake’s temptation then was to give up remembrance
of the law of diminishing returns.
For wasn’t Eve, and then Adam, tempted
to want more than the perfect abundance they had,
to want more, and then, surely, more, and more?
And wasn’t Jesus tempted in the desert
to want three times more, not just of the gifts
he already had and had to give, but more?
And haven’t we too, recently
been cast out of our financial garden of plenty partly
due to some people’s insatiable desire, the Adams and Eves
of industry, finance, commerce, whatever;
all of us, wanting always more and more?
We too give up serenity for restless greed,
and now we too, like Adam and Eve, have tasted
from the tree of knowledge, but this time it is knowledge
of fear, loss, hopelessness, helplessness, despair.
Ah, but, snake. I see you now afresh
in the light of a new day
and in another way.
I allow you to slough off your skin
for me to see a different stripe, the other side of things.
Without you rats would overrun.
Without you, I would mindlessly carry on
with whatever, to excess,
wouldn’t shudder in the night
considering dreads innumerable.
Eventualities and consequences
might my escape notice, without
your sudden sharp upbringing of
Without such warning as seeing you allows,
my own hubris might go unchecked,
and if only it seemed to benefit me, even
war might make sense,
and never mind the
No. I remember now.
You too serve the common cause
Your place in the scheme
of things is not my favorite,
but honor you I must.
You remind me that I am not
the most powerful, the most important, not
the center of the universe.
Neither are you, of course.
But you remind me well
to take care, beware, be watchful, move slowly
enough to notice
that freezing in place, sometimes, momentarily,
is right and good,
becoming quite still,
has its proper uses, and giving up
some things can a blessing be.
So, today, here, let me give thanks
for being spared your worst, and more,
and for having enough of plenty, really,
for those squash under which you moved,
and for fat tomatoes and berries, and
cucumbers and basil, and cilantro
and parsley and sage, and earth and water
and wind, and sun and strength, and
hope and consequences and promise,
and, oh, always, balance.
And so, you, snake. Thank you.