Spring creed

Water snake

In the endless heat of late summer, sometimes it’s hard to remember that Texas can be a cool and beautiful place—but it can, as we hope this poem will remind you.

The lake’s complacent waters bloom before
the glamorous, unhurried progress of
the snake that makes its musing way toward
the bank on which I stand. My soul’s
geography does not resist its presence
on this luminous cool morning—in fact,
invites it in to join the doe that barks
a warning to her fawn, the turkey yodeling
for a mate, the feathered migrants, tender leaves,
the crackling, stretching meadow grasses.
This gracious equilibrium,
where everything belongs,
where pressure between worlds is equalized
and I can hear and see them both, arrives
without annunciation, invitation, effort.
Even in the yearly banishment
from paradise, when a bleached sky buzzes
with the sucking Texas heat, when every
blessed thing apparently has spines
or fangs or concentrated venom—even
then my arid heart dehisces and allows,
at times, the snake its place stretched out and sunning
on white limestone ledges, admits the
sibilant pronouncement that all is well,
which usually goes unheard.

Only now, at fifty, do I register
interior terrain materially,
see that mine is littered with capricious
wreckage of tornadoes; feel the pre-storm
suffocating calm that makes it hard
to breathe; inhale at night the jasmine
and its drifting ache; or move through shining
winter briskness where every chore’s a pleasure.
Now I scan horizons and prepare
for seasons newly gleaned, knowing they will
drench and parch, delight and wrench, approach
and pass. Snakes have always lived here, always will.
I see them sometimes now and sometimes watch
their agitating grace without a lurching
of my heart, but here is the kingdom
of the coiled presence. Here abide the mark
and potency of flood and flaming sky.
I am their host and guest; they don’t belong to me.

They are not mine, but are. This is not a metaphor,
but is: language bearing loads past bearing.
Every body is a word exhaled toward violence
and beauty; every body vibrates in
reception, a veil through which the wind
between the worlds whirls. At this intersection
grow fruits of silence, stillness, from the soil
of singleness, where snake and lake and sky
on either side of self’s divide sing in unison.

What we’re reading
Elaine Pagels, Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation
Martin: Sam Kean, The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

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4 Responses to Spring creed

  1. Louisa says:

    Oh Heather – your beautiful words, truly “language bearing loads past bearing” – it takes me apart.

    Thank you –

  2. Janis says:

    Lovely … though provoking … so much here that it invites me to sit with it and read again. Beautifully done … thank you for sharing.

  3. Janis says:

    In prior message … meant to say … thought provoking … I’ll blame the Texas heat!

  4. craig kinney says:


    After reading your poem, I’m putting you up on the top shelf, alongside Wendell Berry and Annie Dillard. You belong.

    Thanks, Craig Kinney

    P.S.: Good seeing you guys at the Front Porch gig at All Saints’!

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