Out here, he warned,
you should always be on the lookout
for snakes by day, not that they
will go out of their way to attack you,
but stray into their territory
and the Western Diamondback
will give you a quick lesson in awareness.
They hide among the scrub sage
and in the arroyos, but you still
walk for this kind of beauty
demands your attention regardless.
And at night, he added,
don’t stray too far for the coyotes
wander freely looking for rabbits
and small game, and though you
would be too large a meal,
you’d still be worth a taste.
You are in their home, after all.
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I just want you to know
that the Old Man set me up,
and I’ll admit that, cagey as I am,
I never saw it coming.
I mean I knew he was capable
of anything, but he always adopted
this holier than thou persona so why
would I imagine He’d do this?
And it wasn’t like He clued
me in on it, how was I to know
that one was somehow different,
and weren’t they the smart ones?
So I take the fall, and you can bet it
will be an eternity of distrust, if not fear
or hatred, and I have to say, the damned
apple wasn’t all that tasty anyway.
We should stop blaming the snake. First, do we really want to admit the reptile was that much smarter than we were? More importantly, how long could we have survived wearing the leaves, if anything at all, and eating fruits and vegetables? Okay, I grant you that is all I eat, but by choice and after considerable thought. And, by the way, never tell a Jewish male he can’t eat something. We all know full well that even shrimp and pork are kosher in a Chinese restaurant. At least on Friday night.
Snakes, like coins,
have both head and tail.
If I cut a snake in two,
have I two snakes,
or none at all.
for the spade
that cuts the snake
can dig an inescapable abyss.
A reflection on case 86 of the Shobogenzo (The True Dharma Eye)
He imagined what it must have been like
in the garden, before the snake, before
the damned apple, though certainly not
before the missing rib, that was a complete
and utter bore, and yes beauty can be
infinitely boring given half a chance.
But to be blissfully ignorant, without
the burden of knowledge, the taste
of the apple on the tongue, to just
be in the middle of perfection, and be
perfection itself, that had to be something.
But no, there would have been no mirrors,
and who knows if it would have seemed
the least bit beautiful, since there
would have been nothing to compare it to.
Maybe we should honor the snake.
Cats have more in common
with snakes that we care to recognize.
She said this with a straight face.
He wanted to laugh at her, but dared not.
She didn’t take laughter kindly
when she thought it was directed at her.
He calmly asked her to explain.
It’s simple, she said, with feigned
patience, both can slither around,
are expert at hiding when they wish,
and as you have now so clearly demonstrated,
much as Adam did, both of you the hard way,
both snakes and cats are smarter
by far than your average male human.
A commentary on a holy book
cannot hear one another.
Perhaps their deafness goes
beyond family and species.
It would do much
to explain God’s rejection
of Eve’s proffered excuse
that despite her protestations
and those of Adam
the snake would not
take no for an answer –
a deaf snake, after all
having spoken, has little
to do but move along
to the next monologue.