Tuesday, May 21, 2013

TUESDAY POEM | The Blue Snake by Margaret Atwood


                       THE BLUE SNAKE 

                       The snake winds through your head
                       into the temple which stands on a hill
                       and is not much visited now.

                       Toppled stones clutter the paving
                       where the blue snake swims towards you,
                       dry in the dry air,
                       blue as a vein or a fading bruise.
                       It looks at you from the side of its head
                       as snakes do. It flickers.

                       What does it know
                       that it needs to tell you?
                       What do you need to be told?
                       You are surprised to hear it speak.
                       It has the voice of a flute
                       when you first blow into it,
                       long and breathless; it has an old voice,
                       like the blue stars, liked the unborn,
                       the voice of things beginning and ceasing.

                       As you listen, you grow heavier.
                       It asks you why you are here,
                       and you can't answer.

                       It begins to glow,
                       it's almost transparent now,
                       you can see the spine
                       with its many pairs of delicate ribs
                       unrolling like a feather.

                       This has gone far enough,
                       you think, and turn away.
                       It isn't what you came for.

                       Behind you the snake dissolves
                       and flows into the rock.

                       On the plain below you is a river
                       you know you must follow home.

                       Margaret Atwood
                           from her collection Interlunar, first published by Jonathan Cape Ltd in 1988

Photograph by Michael Melford, National Geographic with aerial support by Lighthawk

This week's editor on the Tuesday Poem hub is UK-based writer, Belinda Hollyer
with Saturday, Ocean Creek 
a spatially vast and haunting poem by Fred D'Aguiar 

                                "Sometimes the morning shakes itself from its moorings
                                To this world and lifts skywards with a fighter jet's roar,
                                Everyone lucky enough to be up and about looks to the east. . . "

(Belinda has - lucky us - posted a second Fred D'Aguiar poem on her blog.  The Rose of Toulouse and Saturday, Ocean Creek exhort me to look at familiar things differently.

For more Tuesday Poetry - a whole lot more - please click on the quill.


  1. I've never read this one. Thank you. My favourite Atwood poems are "Siren Song" and "This is a photograph of me."

  2. Is it me or the time or something far less identifiable, that makes it seem that the voices have all gone off to balmy climes together, leaving us heavy-footed humans to stumble more awkwardly than usual? A fitting and visually (and otherwise) nourishing poem. Some days are harder than others for those who know we live in the questions. Unmoored and not comfortable with it right now. Love, Marylinn