16 July 2014


Join, or Die by Benjamin Franklin was recycled to encourage the former colonies to unite against British rule
Political Cartoon by Benjamin Franklin (1754)
recycled during the French and Indian War and then  revived as
"unite, or die" to encourage the former colonies to unite against British rule.

Give me 26 letters
and squiggles to play with and
I will tool a poem on your
hand-made leather belt, supple
round your waist—or I will paint
it on a live rattlesnake
coiling code round arms and neck.

Rattlesnake beauty has its
venom, tail to warn and fangs
to strike—all three equally
hold the magic of presence
in the stonewalls of my youth
in the aggressiveness of
a young nation, “Join or die.”

Let’s tattoo instead, fashion
dictates a phrase or two will
do, less than a haiku’s length
in pieces or whole at least
an arm’s length or swallowing
its tale in a big O—what?
Snakes sleep on the stone sidewalk!

Good luck greets us on the steps
and slithers away from our
presence.  In the pine forest
remnants of cow pasture walls
we hear but don’t see rattlers
and fear poison ivy more
lacing the paths’ fern edging

Grandfather took me to climb
the V-bed of a young stream
instead: The stone walls can slip;
they’re too dangerous to climb.
Listen to the rattle call
and you’ll fall, he said from cool
stepping stones mid-stream and moss.

The stream snaked forward and stone
walls snaked over pine carpets
story boarding the lengthy
days of childhood.  I heard my
mother’s dead brother was snake
keeper of Bear Mountain, my
amazing unknown Uncle.

A heart attack took him young
forever softened image
of love and alchemy, gold
in dross, he swims and coils
my Ouroboros uncle
forever renewed in the
Never land of Peter Pan

Snake bracelets, rings and earrings
are made of precious metal
in reverence of the force
abused in Eve’s Garden, who
are our whisperers today
modeling transformation
and shedding, shedding of skin

And that is how I know you
so deeply, our contrasting
skins entwined, braided, touching
inside and out, extending
imaginary into
real time.  O! this is our time—
this is how poetry glows.

and, it seems, 
for dVerse Poets Pub where Claudia prompts

3 year Anniversary– Celebrating Poets

Copyright © 2014  S.L.Chast


Brian Miller said...

wow, you wove these together nicely...love the part on your uncle...though taken early....the use of ouroboros....so many cool snake references...both the good and bad...i try to just move them when they show up at our house...move them on to the tall grass...the contrasts, yes, poetry is made of that...its the personal touches that make this...smiles.

avalon said...

Thomas Paine certainly knew how to use the 26 letters in his pamphlet "Common Sense" in 1776, changing the course of history. This unlikely chap, veering from corset maker to snake oil seller, using his golden tongue in a pugnacious tract that sold 400,000 copies in no time flat. He tooled a poem alright, and created a nation through it.
Ah, those dangerous stone wall, and the rocks in the brook at the bottom of our garden - so tempting with its crystal water enticing us in summer. Why is there always a fly ...snake in the ointment?

Sherry Blue Sky said...

"this is how poetry glows!" Yes, it is. This poem needs me to come back and read it again later, I am off to work and too rushed to do it justice......good one, Susan.

Jae Rose said...

I love the opening verse...it truly is amazing what you can do with 26 letters...I suppose we choose our own snakes to charm..wonderful sense of history and knowledge and wisdom passing through time and words

Myrna R. said...

Love the snake metaphor. You used it so well, and the story of your uncle, and the ending glow of poetry - wow. You are truly a gifted poet. Loved reading this.

Kenia Santos said...

From all the likeable lines in your poem today, this has to be my favorite: Good luck greets us on the steps
and slithers away from our presence.
This is so painfully true! But it also makes me think we should never rely on luck, there has to be something beyond that, don't you agree?

I like the verse about the tattoo. There are so many lines I'd like to have on my skin, so many reminders, I'm in line for Alzheimer's, I'm always saying that, there are so many things I won't remember. Bukowski's final lines from 'For Jane': The tigers have found me and I do not care will make it to my body very soon.

You're an amazing poet.

Love. <3

Sumana Roy said...

now i'm really made to feel of everything being so snaky all around us...a deep insight here Susan...love the second stanza most..great lines..

Claudia said...

dangerous and fascinating... poetry is always both to me...like a snake... love your play on this and how you wove this together susan

Linda M said...

Nice work! And the ending brings it all together in a gorgeous closing crescendo. Kudos!

Anonymous said...

The extended metaphor bubbling into many more... makes it a brilliant piece of writing.
The craftsmanship in this piece is enthralling. Great job. :-)

Mary said...

Oh yes, 'this is how poetry glows. What richly metaphoric writing here, Susan.

Gabriella said...

it is amazing, isn't it how we can endlessly play with the same 26 letters and create poets over and over again.

Victoria Ceretto-Slotto said...

The way the stanzas emerged, one from another, amazed and pleased me, Susan. And what a perfect complement in the title. The concept of shape-shifting fascinate me and I too have written a poem by that title.

Unknown said...

Love shape shifting and your beautiful poem honoring ancient power.

Grace said...

I admire what we can shape out of those 26 letters~ Fascinating imagery of snake - its beauty, luck, venom & bite & entwining with family history ~ This is how poetry glows - so true Susan ~

Thank you for your words ~

Loredana Donovan said...

Shape shifting, such an interesting concept. Perhaps a way to adapt to change. The ending line on how poetry glows is so true. It can surely enrich our lives. Smiles.

Eileen T O'Neill ..... said...


You have extended my thinking about snakes, as a captivating read. All dimensions of snake-life, the human life and in fact, the after-life as per the skin products.. A very comprehensive and well consturcted composition Susan..


Nicholas said...

wonderful ode to the snake! :)

Beachanny said...

A gorgeous poem - the snake coils and uncoils throughout the poem inching along, wrapping around, slithering through the words, all the words - the bringer of knowledge, the taker out of the garden, the bringer of truth and shame and reality, the stuff of poems, the source to poets -- all here, so fabulously told! Happy Anniversary!

Unknown said...

So well crafted susan... I loved reading this... Snakes have ao many myths and stories behind ... Its amusing sucha viscious creature is even prayed by some...

J Cosmo Newbery said...

I suppose just a tee-shirt is out of the question?

Arathi Harihar said...

beautiful poem susan with lot of insights..i enjoyed it a lot :)

annell4 said...

I like what you did, weaving, and slithering…wonderfully done!

PT said...

Amazing lines...enjoyed reading the nicely woven verse!

Sharp Little Pencil said...

Susan, you captured not only the three most important qualities of the snake: venom, warning signal, and "delivery device" (fangs!), but used the snake image was both noun and verb repeatedly. I especially loved how water can indeed snake over barriers. Really effective, great take on the prompt! Amy

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

Wow, Susan this is a wonderful poem! I think I like it best of any of yours I've read.