Dick Allen

Putting Legs on a Snake

We’ve been trying for hours to improve the snake,
to make him walk like us.
Why slide? Why coil into a ball
when he can walk like us?

Let the scales fall from you, Snake,
and may your eyes close,
your tongue stop flickering.
It isn’t right the way your body flows.

We try to prop him up but he stays limp,
squirming, undulating back and forth—
not like us, who run like pairs of scissors,
hop like raindrops, stride a steady course.

Revise your color patterns, Snake,
your one lung and your many vertebrae.
Learn to stroll down sunny avenues.
How sinuous you look today!

But everything we put on him falls off
and every time we turn around, he’s gone—
slithered away to nothing, like a promise we once made
without a single leg to stand upon.