Treasure Island

John Westlake

(Crawley)

010. The Snake


Something moves in the tall forest grass
the smooth skin shines in the sun
a skin with scales
of both brown and yellow

The snake scans the ground
with lidless unblinking eyes
its ears intent
hidden by a piece of skin

It spots something moving
a small frightened mouse
hiding in a clump of grass
trying to avoid the stare

The snake has already eaten
but gives the mouse a stare
the mouse runs off
the snake looks on
its tongue flicking in and out
now and then

The tired snake
coils itself up like an old rope
and goes to sleep

Submitted: Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Edited: Tuesday, March 11, 2014

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Topic(s): Animals

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

Not one of my better ones, but will include it any way. Written 13/11/99 in the Weald School Billingshurst.

Comments about this poem (010. The Snake by John Westlake )

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  • Daniel Brick (5/5/2014 4:06:00 AM)

    Oh, I beg to disagree with your evaluation of the poem. I think this is a sharp, incisive portrait of the snake as it exists in nature. There's no pathetic fallacy here humanizing the animal or making it serve a human moral. And the fact that the snake has fed and is now sleepy, is the only factor which saves the mouse. There's no false sentimentality in that encounter. Do you know THE SNAKE D. H. Lawrence? He calls the snake ONE OF THE LORDS OF LIFE and his frightened, then aggressive reaction A PETTINESS to be atoned. It's a great poem and made me a full time reader of his collected poems. I love them even more than his novels, which are wondrous. (Report) Reply

  • Bri Edwards (3/23/2014 3:54:00 PM)

    with lidless unblinking eyes .... i thought snakes might have nictitating membranes which act like eyelids, but upon doing online research i have read that they have spectacles instead. i believe snakes sort of blink, but the blink may not be obvious to casual observers, as, i think, the spectacles are clear.

    i especially liked the following five lines:

    The snake has already eaten
    but gives the mouse a stare....sort of like JW giving a referee a stare when JW has had his fill of cussing for the afternoon!



    The tired snake
    coils itself up like an old rope
    and goes to sleep .....................like i do at night.

    i like limiting the capitalization to the first letter of each stanza, but it wouldn't work for me in every poem, where it might cause some trouble knowing where a sentence ends, since you also did not use punctuation.

    i like snakes. this poem has given me an idea for a human body beauty treatment. it is fantasy, but i may write a poem about it. thanks for sharing. bri ;) (Report) Reply

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