The Deer and the Snake

By Kenneth Patchen 1911–1972 Kenneth Patchen
The deer is humble, lovely as God made her   
I watch her eyes and think of wonder owned

These strange priests enter the cathedral of woods   
And seven Marys clean their hands to woo her

Foot lifted, dagger-sharp—her ears   
Poised to their points like a leaf's head

But the snake strikes, in a velvet arc
Of murderous speed—assassin beautiful

As mountain water at which a fawn drank   
Stand there, forever, while poison works
While I stand counting the arms of your Cross   
Thinking that many Christs could hang there, crying.

Kenneth Patchen, “The Deer and the Snake” from Collected Poems. Copyright 1939 by Kenneth Patchen. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1957)

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Poet Kenneth Patchen 1911–1972

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 Kenneth  Patchen

Biography

Largely a self-taught writer, Kenneth Patchen never appeared to win widespread recognition from the professors at universities or many literary critics. As the New York Times Book Review noted, "While some critics tended to dismiss his work as naive, romantic, capricious and concerned often with the social problems of the 1930's, others found him a major voice in American poetry.... Even the most generous praise was usually . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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