Sleeping with Boa

By May Swenson 1913–1989 May Swenson
I show her how to put her arms around me,   
but she’s much too small.
What’s worse, she doesn’t understand.   
although she lies beside me, sticking   
out her tongue, it’s herself she licks.

She likes my stroking hand.   
even lets me kiss.
But at my demand:
“Now, do it to me, like this,”   
she backs off with a hiss.

What’s in her little mind?
Jumping off the bed,
she shows me her behind,
but curls up on the rug instead.
I beg her to return. At first, she did,   
then went and hid

under the covers. She’s playing with my feet!   
“Oh, Boa, come back. Be sweet,
Lie against me here where I’m nice and warm.   
Settle down. Don’t claw, don’t bite.
Stay with me tonight.”
Seeming to consent, she gives a little whine.

Her deep, deep pupils meet mine   
with a look that holds a flood ...   
But not my brand.
Not at all.
what‘s worse, she’s much too small.

May Swenson, “Sleeping With Boa” from Yale Review 81, no. 2 (January 1993). Copyright © 1993 by May Swenson. Reprinted with the permission of The Literary Estate of May Swenson.

Source: Yale Review 81 no. 2 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1993)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet May Swenson 1913–1989

Subjects Relationships, Pets

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 May  Swenson


During her prolific career, May Swenson received numerous literary awards and nominations for her poetry. Often experimental in both form and appearance, her poems earned her widespread critical acclaim. As Priscilla Long commented in the Women's Review of Books, "Swenson was a visionary poet, a prodigious observer of the fragile and miraculous natural world."

Swenson's poetry has been praised for its imagery, which is . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Pets

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.