Ceiling snakes

This entry is part 4 of 37 in the series Bridge to Nowhere: poems at mid-life


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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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13 Replies to “Ceiling snakes”

  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.

  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.

    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.

  3. 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…

    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.

  4. 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…. :-)

    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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