Tuesday, March 27, 2012

You Knew What I Was When You Picked Me Up

You Knew What I Was When You Picked Me Up

Don’t carry the snake up the freakin’
mountain, kids. Even if he asks nice.
Even if he is old, if he squints at you
like your cat does. Don’t tell him
your name. If he says your mom sent
him, ask him for the password. If he
doesn’t say hamburger hamburger,
get out of Dodge. Don’t look like you
are alone. Hint that your parents are
near, just not available. He doesn’t need
your help. He can cross the river fine.
He can rock climb fine. Your backpack
is not a snake carrying case. His fangs
can get at your skin through canvas,
through leather, through denim. If he
says his fangs are dentures, he’s lying.
If he says his venom’s all dried up,
he’s lying. He might tell you that
humans are his favorite. That he
once had a little boy who was his
friend. They would hike up hills
and go swimming together, snake
riding zipped up in the chest of
the boy’s hooded sweatshirt, snake
resting little snake chin on the zipper.
Even if he says he’s not a rattlesnake,
he could be. Even if you shake him
hard and don’t hear a thing. Trust
your fear, kids. It’s not enough to
leave him once you’ve found him.
He’s gonna keep talking to you in
that smooth, scaly voice, telling you
it’s ok, he doesn’t want to hurt you,
he just wants to sunbathe. Even as a
snakelet, he is dangerous. We are
not trying to scare you. You need to
hear this. There are snakes everywhere.
Even a baby snake is a snake. Don’t
let him talk. You don’t want to get bit.


  1. A shovel to the skull works well, I find.

  2. Amazing that this was inspired by the artwork. It has a profundity that merits more than one reading. And what a video could be made of this, if considered without being literal.

  3. Hi Hannah,

    This poem is ominous, a necessary warning. Unfortunate, but too true. We cannot trust, and I experience the unease as I read.

    The image I find perhaps more compelling than any other you've ever linked. I find myself viewing it again and again, and I've followed to see more of the artist's work.
    This surprises me, because I tend toward the fantasy image or the impressionisist image, or the classic image, and I can't quite explain the appeal; I just feel it, as I try to make sense of the human figures and gestures within the shapes.

  4. I just re-read, and I realize what adds to the creepy feeling, and the truth of this poem, is the title- the perpetrator blaming the victim, denying their innocence. The poem makes me feel anger, as it should. You've chosen your lines and your images with accuracy. It's an important poem.

  5. Hannah, it's fascinating to try to imagine how this artwork became this poem! I love the title and what you're telling us in it, and where it takes me as I reflect on that symbolic serpent in the garden and who, really, picked it up.


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