Perie Longo – Snake on the Road

Longo LE P&W July 2023

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing July 2023

Snake on the Road, poems by Perie Longo.

Snake on the Road

At first I saw it as a long crack
to step over kidlike, not to break
your mother’s back. Then it slowly undulated

weaving in wide swerves across the asphalt,
hypnotic waves of gold and black, skinny tongue
flicking in fear of my shadow overhead.

A sudden SUV at the gate
pressed into the neighborhood. I raised my hand
like a crossing guard, hollered Snake Crossing.

When the private enclave was just a hill of oaks,
I’d climb to view the city beyond at ocean’s foot—
often dallying to the cree of hawks. One day,

before the bulldozers struck, a lone woman
in a rundown house stepped out, pointed a gun at me
and yelled git. Watching the tail of snake

zip into the sideline’s green wings, safe
from my near misstep and the wheels of progress,
I waved the car through, thumbs up.

More big

At dusk, a toddler points to the silver sky,
his father snuggling him close. More Big
the child chants, his eyes full-moon wide,
arm sweeping away all that space around us.

From the sidewalk we watch a crane lift
a new power pole into air. More Big
he repeats, very earnest. Spindle thin,
the cable and pole swing wildly, a black line

that divides father and child on one side
of the street from darkness coming soon
on the other. Candles flicker in windows
just in case the plan falls apart.

In this world, little boy not ready for bed,
you’ve given me two words
that near describe everything day by day
growing big and bigger.


The new man in my life,
seasoned as I, brings me tulips
for Spring he grins, purple ones,
color I’m wearing I swore never
to wear. Not only one bouquet,
but two. Taken by his generosity
I say make yourself at home
though we’re very new
in an old sort of way.
He sits at my table while I boil
water for tea, the sky peeking in,
tree jostling the window—
though less strangers than when
he picked me up the first time
two months ago for a lift
to a mutual friend’s party,
me fearing to drive alone
on a twisty, rural road.
He reminds me I said, climbing
into his shiny blue truck,
going my way?
Such bravado for a widow
of twenty years unwrapping
two bouquets of purple tulips
while the kettle whistles.
Heat rising, he pushes on.
Do you like to dance?
The overhead light flickers.
Sure, I nod. Fast or slow?
I shift, feel the road ahead
break in two, no clue
which one I’ll choose
and insert his thirsty tulips
in a vase with more
than enough water.


Under moon’s faint smile, you press
a row of whisper kisses along the length

of hand, wrist, forearm, my Velcro brace
unfastened to relieve the rash, massage

the ache where break has left me useless.
I can’t think, couldn’t if I tried,

veins plum-blue on my hand throbbing
with such tenderness foreign to this body

under its own siege. Impetuous, insistent
to keep pushing on whatever interferes

like that tree root risen in trail’s center
to spill me yelling help, grounded.

As if my arm were a piece of china,
you place it on the table, take leave

wordless. I sit arrested wondering,
have I stumbled into someone else’s life?

I get lost so easily

even with a GPS
I may never make it
to heaven anymore than I didn’t
mount the mountain top
sidetracked by a plot
of shamrocks
in shade of oaks
around the corner of the day
being Grandma’s girl lost
in her County Kerry brogue
and promised to travel there someday
which I did by the grace of Holy Mary
and my son’s steady navigation
driving the wandering roads
left-handed passed down
from some ancestral dervish
where I found myself
deep in an ancient tobair
waiting for a miracle
grandma said was always coming
when she cured my finger warts
directing me to bury
a dirty wash cloth
under a cherry tree
casting a prayer to the Almighty
but I digress—the blue sky above
sea foaming below
though a fiercest wind
tried to blow me off course—
not easy in a land of low stone walls
marking where you belong
where you don’t
and who you are
whirling off on back of the wind
faith and begorra
into the blinding sun

© Perie Longo

Perie Longo, Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara, California (2007-2009, has published five books of poetry: Milking The Earth (1986), The Privacy Of Wind (1997), With Nothing behind but Sky: a journey through grief (2006), Baggage Claim (2014) and A Mosaic of Poetry (2013), an eBook of poetry for children. Her poems have been published Atlanta Review, Connecticut Review, International Poetry Review, Miramar, Nimrod, Passager, Paterson Literary Review, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, Salt, Solo Novo, Wisconsin Review and other journals and anthologies. She taught poetry in local schools through the California-Poets-in-the-Schools (1984-2014), and is on the staff of the annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference. Poetry chair for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, in 2005 she was invited by the University of Kuwait to speak on Poetry as a way to Peace. As a psychotherapist, she integrates poetry writing for healing.

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