Yippee!  It’s almost salsa season!  Thanks to a balanced mix of hot sun and plentiful rain, I’ve had homegrown jalapenos for a few weeks now, and my heirloom “watermelon” tomatoes are just beginning to blush.  I bought my seedlings in May from an organic farmer who started them in his greenhouse.  Anxious to get them planted, I spent that morning clearing a space in our raised bed.  Absentmindedly, I grabbed handful after handful of weeds and tossed them toward the compost pile, the dog snapping eagerly at the bundles as they sailed past.  I was having a (sort of) good time until I spied a coiled-up snake where my hands had been, just a second before.  Snakes aren’t common here—this was the first one I’d seen in twenty years.  I donned a pair of work gloves and grabbed a shovel from the garage and we had a chat, the snake and I.
I promised not to chop him in half if he would slither out of my yard
and go elsewhere.  It took some convincing (including a bit of sweet-talk and a wild ride on the shovel) but he left and has not come back.  The next day, after my heart rate had returned to normal, my one-way conversation became a pantoum filled with oblique “garden” rhymes:


O, snake in the garden,
my cold-blooded find,
begging your pardon
but this parcel is mine

My cold-blooded find,
your life I won’t shorten
but this parcel is mine;
I offer a bargain

Your life I won’t shorten,
my motives are kind
I offer a bargain;
just leave it behind

My motives are kind
The soil here is spartan;
just leave it behind
for grass like a carpet

The soil here is Spartan;
relax and unwind
on grass like a carpet
Be free, unconfined

Relax and unwind
beyond my yard’s margin
Be free, unconfined,
go on now, get started

Beyond my yard’s margin
you’ve been reassigned
Go on now, get started,
you’re on a deadline

You’ve been reassigned
Begging your pardon,
you’re on a deadline,
O, snake in the garden

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  1. pranabaxom July 30, 2017 / 1:24 am

    Was that a garter snake in search of some snacks? Some jalapeños would have done him (or her?) good.
    Beautiful poem though.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Just Joan July 30, 2017 / 12:29 pm

      Thanks, PB. According to online pics and what I can recall about the snake (maybe 4 feet long, an inch thick at its thickest point, gray-brown with a checkered pattern on its back), probably just a harmless garter snake. He/she hasn’t been back to snack on my jalapenos, now that they’re ripe. Pantoum, with its serpentine lines, seemed a good form to address my little friend. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • pranabaxom July 30, 2017 / 2:59 pm

        There were times when these harmless snakes were considered to be beneficial as they used to keep rodent population in check.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Just Joan July 30, 2017 / 4:49 pm

        Right, the same way I let spiders live because they eat pesky flies, mosquitoes, etc.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Joyce Robinson July 30, 2017 / 7:44 am

    Oh begging your pardon
    snakes abound
    In our garden😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan July 30, 2017 / 12:31 pm

      Hey Joyce… I guess Mr. Serpent must have headed your way when he left here. Now he and his friends are having a party at your place! Honestly, in 20 years of backyard gardening, this is the first snake I’ve ever seen. They could be good at laying low and camouflaging?? 🙂


  3. Tippy Gnu July 30, 2017 / 8:33 am

    You could send him my way. I love snakes, as long as they’re not the rattling kind.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan July 30, 2017 / 12:37 pm

      Hey, Tippy, good to see you. No, this guy wasn’t shaking his maracas or anything. As The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would say, he’s like planet Earth: “mostly harmless.” If he returns, I’ll pass your message on and point him westward. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan July 30, 2017 / 4:43 pm

      Thanks, Marissa. I decided to use the shovel to pick him up and transport him over the fence. He decided to rappel to the ground, just as I was about to give him the heave-ho. Before I could think what to do next, the dog chased him and he slithered through a gap between two of the boards. It was pretty hairy there for a minute or two, but all’s well that ends well. 🙂


  4. lyart July 30, 2017 / 1:52 pm

    eeh, a snake. I am not fond of snakes, I have to confess. I might have put the shovel to a quite different use, if I had been caught in your situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan July 30, 2017 / 4:47 pm

      I hear you, Lyart. I hate to kill any creature. But if I tried and missed, he would have good reason to hiss, bite, squeeze me to death, hide out and lie in wait scare me to death later, or whatever angry garden snakes do. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. L. T. Garvin, Author July 30, 2017 / 9:35 pm

    I say very effective negotiations, Joan. I am not a big fan of snakes, either, but I do admire you for not immediately grabbing a shovel and killing it. So many people here (in Texas), go figure, first thing they do is grab the shovel and kill. Snakes do serve a purpose. I like how you tell it to be free and unconfined, then tell it that it is on a deadline, ha ha…no pun intended. Great poem!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan July 31, 2017 / 4:38 pm

      Thanks, Lana. I kill mosquitoes and ticks, that’s it. Maybe vampires, if I have a wooden stake handy. Everyone else gets a fair shake. Seems people either love (or don’t mind) snakes, or hate them. Me? I think a spoonful of honey works better than a barrel of vinegar, and I’ll tolerate them to a point, but c’mon, I don’t have all day! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Peter Klopp July 31, 2017 / 11:56 am

    It is truly amazing to see unique and appealing poetry emerge out of personal experiences in the garden. Thank you for sharing this lovely poem with us, Joan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan July 31, 2017 / 4:41 pm

      You’re welcome, Peter. Most of my poems do come from personal experience of one sort or another. Often the words and ideas suggest their own form and I use that as a guide as I create it. Have a great week! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 1, 2017 / 2:50 pm

      Thanks, LTodd. Hope your travels are snake-free. 🙂


  7. K E Garland August 1, 2017 / 4:12 pm

    Omgoodness! The story preceding the poem literally made me laugh out loud. I can only imagine. The poem, as usual Joan, is super creative. I enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 1, 2017 / 5:53 pm

      Thanks, KE. Surprises seem to pop up when you least expect them! It was a chilly morning, which worked to my advantage, making him a bit slower and more sluggish than he might otherwise have been. I can’t help looking for him every time I pick a jalapeno or check the progress of the tomatoes, kind of like carefully observing the speed limit on a certain stretch of road because I know the cops set up a radar trap there once. Have a great week! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. chevvy8 August 5, 2017 / 3:22 am

    I love the domestic bliss of your growing of tomatoes and jalapenos that you relate in your preamble Joan. I guess you were victorious in amicably removing the “devil” from your garden of Eden, even thwarting the power and fear that snakes evoke. I would not be so brave having grown up with the most poisonous and dangerous snakes. Nice poem as usual Joan! I’ve learnt though that snakes also have a spiritual connotation which I glimpse in your poem too! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Just Joan August 5, 2017 / 6:05 pm

      Thanks, Chevvy. Snakes are pretty rare here; that said, I wouldn’t know a poisonous one from a harmless one (unless it had a copper-head or it rattled). For an amicable ending, sometimes gentle persuasion works better than force. I think our world’s leaders need to keep that in mind as we work for peaceful coexistence. Thanks also for your mail, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I will be in touch. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • chevvy8 August 6, 2017 / 2:37 pm

        I think that’s a sound argument – in the end a win-win approach!😀

        Liked by 1 person

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