The Snake

By William Matthews 1942–1997 William Matthews
A snake is the love of a thumb   
and forefinger.
Other times, an arm
that has swallowed a bicep.

The air behind this one   
is like a knot
in a child’s shoelace
come undone
while you were blinking.

It is bearing something away.   
What? What time   
does the next snake leave?

This one’s tail is ravelling   
into its burrow—
a rosary returned to a purse.
The snake is the last time your spine   
could go anywhere alone.

William Matthews, “The Snake” from Selected Poems and Translations, 1969-1991. Copyright © 1992 by William Matthews. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved, www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com.

Source: Selected Poems and Translations 1969-1991 (1992)

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Poet William Matthews 1942–1997

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Animals, Nature

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 William  Matthews

Biography

William Matthews's poetry has earned him a reputation as a master of well-turned phrases, wise sayings, and rich metaphors. Much of Matthews's poetry explores the themes of life cycles, the passage of time, and the nature of human consciousness. In another type of poem, he focuses on his particular enthusiasms: jazz music, basketball, and his children. His early writing was free-form and epigrammatic. As his career has . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Animals, Nature

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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