We are following a track that loops

around a lake impaled with trees,

a pinned-down habitat for platypuses


I would like to see, so try to walk

quietly until a shadow across the sun-

dried turf in front of me turns scarlet


curls and slides down a bank.

I stop, tell you what I’ve seen, smile

at the luck. You jump onto a log.


For the rest of the walk, we stomp

and you look for a eucalypt branch

you can thump like a third foot


to seem heavier and many-er.

Tourniquets, phone reception, anti

venom and helicopters are debated.


Sometimes I mention the platypuses.

I come from a place where wildlife

hides in timidity not anticipation, so


seldom feel like prey. Giant ferns

and no people remind me of home.

At the far edge of the ellipse, I recall


the lake is a fifty-year-old accident

flooded with rainfall and dammed

by tonnes of weather-crafted shingle.


Humans would not choose to leave

a hundred trees piercing the water’s

surface. The orchard of totem poles


seems tapu, unsettling as a gallery.

Past trunks, smooth and muscled

like horse flesh, I forget to march


find myself creeping, not watching

for monotremes but ghosts or artists,

feeling reverent and vaguely willing


my Achilles to be bitten in exchange

for an encounter with the creator.


Amy Brown


It may seem odd to give Paula a ‘birthday snake’, but the one in this poem felt more like a gift than a threat, as it was my first sighting and had the thrill of a surprising line of poetry. The snake also reminded me that I wasn’t in New Zealand (sometimes I forget), which made me a bit homesick for the landscapes, seascapes and weather that Paula portrays so perfectly in her own poetry. Happy Birthday, Paula!


One comment on “Snake

  1. Love the link between the surprising line of poetry and sighting a snake for the first time. This poem is full of surprising lines, wonderful lines (a lake impaled with trees). Ahhh! Thank you!


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