The Black Snake

When the black snake

flashed onto the morning road,

and the truck could not swerve –

death, that is what happens.


Now he lies looped and useless

as an old bicycle tire.

I stop the car

and carry him into the bushes.


He is as cool and gleaming

as a braided whip, he is as beautiful and quiet

as a dead brother.

I leave him under the leaves


and drive on,  thinking

about death: its suddenness,

its terrible weight,

its certain coming.  Yet under


reason burns a brighter fire, which the bones

have always preferred.

It is the story of endless good fortune.

It says to oblivion: not me!


It is the light at the center of every cell.

It is what sent the snake coiling and flowing forward

happily all spring through the green leaves before

he came to the road.


Mary Oliver


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