Emerald green tree boa for sale to the right party,
no triflers please.
Daily News want ad amidst listings
for Weimaraners, Great Danes, terriers.
Emerald green, one of the most beautiful snakes in the world,
seen in its proper setting, flowing like green light
deep in the rain forest; even in this time when the whole earth is
and hurried to collectors via air, hard to believe,
but someone had it. I
looked out the window in drab snow, looked at the curtain rods,
saw it quite clear, twining among the curtains, even draped
across the lampshade, an old urge surging up from boyhood
for some world-shaking Worm, some dragon gained.
Studied my wife, too, secretly over the paper in my middle age,
the pros and cons, how much I could persuade.
Should be allowed, of course, the house, be free to climb,
among the book shelves, could be encountered unexpected,
so it preferred--could also hang in coils, its head wrapped up,
most precious gem of all. I stared
over the paper, speculative, but knew
it must be fed alive, sighed, grasped the problem,
went back to Weimaraner ads, sighed again, grew smaller,
became a ten-year-old, wife vanished, hunting
in a lost decade and another time.
Two wading in a swamp, small boys alert
see everything that moves, caught the green reflection
along a scaled
old dragon's back,
a giant snapper's back, never such a turtle
have I seen since along a prairie slough.
They grow and grow,
get mossed and ancient lying in the mud, but now,
all over now
they're routed out, they don't achieve
such age, such armored growth, and reptiles grow with age;
just keep on growing.
This one must have slept
growing in mud and light and water
till the last men with ox teams had trudged by.
"Rolly," I screamed, "Rolly Rolvagsen, good god
get a tree branch, there's wire along the fence line,
he's asleep, he's tired, he's so big
he's not afraid of us,
let's take him home," a snapper, mind you, that
could take a toe right off,
we barefoot, but we did it, did it,
an engineering feat so desperate, I shudder now,
lashings of tail, slipping of naked feet within an inch of ruin.
Pole under him, wired down, the two of us to lift,
carried him miles to Rolly's house
and there he filled a tub.
Norwegian, pale eyes ageless, used to all sea monsters,
incommunicable, just looking. We were told,
later we were told, the great beast got away, accepted it like children
the stories of adults, cried a little
for all the risk and effort wasted, went to play.
Wasted, one turtle wasted; for what I know not. Why did I organize
so vast a capture, undoubtedly destroy,
though I did not intend,
something the mud conceived, something the sun had wrought
nothing at all exists, no dragons and no dreams. I know
I wanted him as though I were a river god.
out of the uncreate old mud, a century nourished,
dead because parents could not waste the time
to put him back.
I looked. I know. Hadn't we labored with his weight on poles
through miles of dust? Behind the newspaper
growing ever smaller
the old, wild urge returns: an emerald tree snake in
my middle age,
want that as well, no, not really, just for a day
the green coils flowing over the pictures, over the davenport,
would take him if I could, but cannot,
back to the filtered light, the stillness, the great vines
and let him
toil upward in green splendor til he vanished, became leaves.
Yes, Rolly Rolvagsen, I was wrong, you know.
Mud has its own ways, they are not our ways.