Ceiling snakes

Direct link to video on Vimeo

The night that a pair of mating milk snakes drops out of the ceiling, I do not dream of snakes. I dream of mating, and of breaking through the crust of the earth and discovering another world filled with an unnatural light. I dream of inescapable stairs verging on a cliff-face to which I cling like a wingless fly. When I wake, it’s still humid, if no longer hot, and a wood thrush sings at the edge of the woods, where wood thrushes always sing: one part joy, two parts longing. I find my notebook from the night before, what I’d been writing when I heard a noise in the kitchen and set it down (some writer!) to grab the video camera. Picking at a scab, it says, and worry beads. I’m sure I had something in mind, but I don’t know what. The snakes were beautiful, and if I hadn’t known better, I might’ve thought from their configuration that they were one snake with a head at both ends, curious but calm as milk snakes always seem to be. If they’d stayed longer I might’ve stood beneath them and offered the use of my body as a steep set of stairs. But the ceiling or their unfinished business called them back, and up they went.

night kitchen
feeling in the dark to pour
a glass of milk

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave’s writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the “share alike” provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

13 Comments


  1. That is quite bizarre, but the poem/story is really great! The snakes are us and we are the snakes! I was bitten by a milk snake as a child because I couldn’t keep my hands off. I learned my lesson. It was much more aggressive than the garter snakes that I used to catch.

    Reply

    1. Really? I’ve always found the opposite here — a garter snake will bite long before a milk snake would.

      Reply

  2. I’ve never seen a milk snake, nor a pair in someone’s ceiling; it’s as though they fell out of bed. Slipped in the sheets.

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  3. Wonderful, the writing and the video.

    What a very odd world we live in, and mate in, and fall out of, and fall into.

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  4. but how did they get into the ceiling? and what happened next? i mean between the video and your dreams…

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    1. How did they get there? They slithered. :) They live in the walls. Whatever happened after they retreated back into the ceiling is anyone’s guess, but they probably remained locked together for a while longer.

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  5. Glad to see from Firebird’s comment that someone else is as discombobulated by this spectacle as I am. Not sure I could cope with that. Must be a eurocentric thing; you and everyone else seem almost blasé…

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    1. Hmm, I think you might be onto something. I gather that wildlife is a bit less abundant in Britain and Western Europe generally than it is here, though as an environmentalist I am usually focused on how much we’ve lost.

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  6. Boggled… You live *really* close to nature, dude! The porcupine, occasional groundhogs, snakes, a bat…. For me it was an event when a frog briefly came into the house last year!

    Also, it looks like it may soon become a question of just how *many* snakes you’re willing to host in your home…. :-)

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    1. I look at it more as a question of how many humans the wildlife is willing to host. They are really remarkably tolerant, considering all we’ve done to them.

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