{p7: if it walks like a snake… something’s wrong}

Happy sneaky pre-autumn!

It’s been a wildly busy month thus far — I feel like a got a few things done, namely putting up some peach butter and drying a lot of peaches and freezing some other peaches… and our chorus resumed this week, so I am already hip-deep in new music. It’s all in Spanish, so I’m doubly glad I kept up with my Spanish studies this summer, and I’m understanding at least 80% of what I’m reading! This is super exciting! (Never fear I’m smug; my pronunciation probably sounds like I’m speaking intoxicated Welsh.)

The only snake in the garden is… well, there’s not one, unfortunately, that’s the problem. I actually ADORE snakes, even the ones that surprise me in the yard (I KNOW. I’ve not yet met a poisonous one in the yard, but even then, we’ll probably just respectfully leave each other alone). Laura’s challenge this month was for us to use a snake metaphor we haven’t used before, in a poem maxing out at eight lines.

This was DAUNTING. I’ve used every “narrow fellow in the grass” metaphor that I could think of before. I once wrote a sonnet to my snake. I didn’t know that I could come up with something new.

We didn’t share our process as a group, so this month, every single Poetry Peeps poem is a happy surprise to me, too. Kel’s all snaked-out and will join us again later, but Laura started us off sweetly, and then Andi surprised herself, Sara brought the weather, Rebecca saw snakes everywhere, Tricia got technical, and Liz slid in before the finish line.

Incidentally, Poetry Friday is hosted by Sylvia and Janet at Poetry for Children right here, and did you see the faculty for the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), biennial conference???? Our very own Princess Liz will take part, as well as some other really special poets, including Naomi Shihab Nye, Jacqueline Woodson and Traci Sorrell!!! WOW.

When I’m stumped for poem topics, I think about what’s new with me. As I’ve mentioned, we moved this summer and we’re around the corner from a high school, a block away from an elementary school, and a block and a half away from a junior high. It’s nice to go on my walk while others are trudging to zero period, secure in the knowledge that I will never, ever, ever face zero period again… *Ahem.* As I was saying, living so school-adjacent is entirely new, and so I thought of what I could do with that… and somehow add snakes.


A shrewdness of discerning tweens
A scamper of their anxious folks
A freshness of “first day!” school scenes
A catch-up made of snark and jokes

A schedule labyrinthine as snakes
Stumbling cross-campus, end to end
A tiredness heavy as lead —
Ends all first days. Thank God for bed.

It was a minimum day, but even so, you could see the difference between kids walking to school, and walking home. They were BEAT. I’m sure the teachers were, too – I remember that feeling, and salute you all who felt it a couple of weeks ago.

Fremont 288


From Mission Peak the sun sinks low
Final salute to end of day.
Fog, coiled cool like nestled snakes
Encircles foothills and the Bay.

Outstretched, a shadow’s arms yawn wide
Offers of rest, and work to cease.
Breeze-ruffled leaves with night scents sigh
As twilight’s blueing light breathes peace.

I can feel the season changing – the overcast morning and the cooling evening. Some of you can feel other nastier things, mainly high winds and oppressive rain. Be well, East Coast friends. A peaceful weekend with the grace of rest to you all.

18 Replies to “{p7: if it walks like a snake… something’s wrong}”

  1. Oh, I love both of these! I’m amazed at the way you used snakes in new metaphorical ways. Well done, you!

    And, ummm, now I want to hear you speak some intoxicated Welsh. 😆

  2. Every time I try to post a comment I get an error message and a notice that I have malware and must go to some site to get off a “blacklist.”
    Not sure why your blog doesn’t like me today.

    I adore both of these poems. The first speaks to me, particularly given my recent adventures going back to elementary school.

    The second poem puts me right there with you. I can feel that fog and it makes me remember my summer in San Francisco. A very fond memory, so I thank you for that.

    1. @Tricia: And yet it lets you post. Which …argues that it’s… lying to us all? If you recall what website it was, please let me know – that’s not okay.

      Meanwhile, you busy creature, thank you for popping by and reading my poetry!

  3. A school schedule is the perfect metaphor for a twisting snake. And I love the fog coiled like nestled snakes. Most of all, I love the way you worked the snake into poems about OTHER stuff–I keep reminding myself to do that. To layer more in. To be more subtle. And then–BLAM. Nope. Anyway, these are awesome!

  4. My favorite part of the first poem is how you made up fresh “group” words—a shrewdness of tweens, indeed.. (You also make me want to try to do a group word challenge, too…maybe next year?)

    And that last poem is crazy-lovely. A lullaby and a last prayer to the day….

    1. @sara: I have a tea towel listing animal groups in a spiral by size, and I love it. I’m a big old nerd for that kind of thing, and I think we SHOULD do a group word challenge and make up new ones for people…

      I’m glad you liked them.

  5. I lived near a school for a long time, and watched my own children go with energy to attack that “schedule labyrinthine”, then moan at home. I especially enjoyed your beginnings, then finally showing the quiet salute to end of day: “Fog, coiled cool like nestled snakes/Encircles foothills and the Bay.” thinking that many were thinking, “at last”. Thanks, Tanita

  6. “Fog, coiled cool like nestled snakes
    Encircles foothills and the Bay.”

    I love the music of these lines! Lovely photo and I am going to stay with this one for a minute.

    But the tiredness of first day…oh boy, yes! You’ve really captured that roil of that day.

  7. I mean, no surprise here but you really did it. The schedule, the fog — both so different and yet spot on. I really love these, Tanita, maybe the shadow’s arms the most, although the scamper of anxious folks made my heart clutch a little…

  8. Nice work with both poems!! You always come through and then some. I especially love “a shadow’s arms yawn wide” and “twilight’s blueing light” in the second one. And you totally captured first day of school feelings — I nodded at “A schedule labyrinthine as snakes.” And you LOVE snakes? Well, okay then . . .

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