No 166 - 2001
It was part of the vow we kept
that your pet snake should lie in the bed.
Sounds far-fetched, I know. And snakes are phallic.
But this one was tame, pure black and very shy,
a neat dark coil with quietly golden eye.
The king-sized bed had space for three of us.
At first there was nothing to confide:
the shrinking was quite imperceptible.
We lay quite close, each other’s next of skin,
and rarely gave much thought to the pet snake
nuzzling nearby. Our dreams stretched
as the marriage bed grew small.
The problem was the snake, an adept
consumer with voracious appetite.
To meet its daily needs and slake its hunger
mere food was not enough; it began to maul
the mattress. Bit by bit, it was eating the bed.
It didn’t, somehow, interrupt our rest.
Soon there was no room for us at all. The snake
curled closer to my head. As I said,
part of the deal. I didn’t think it dangerous
of course - it was now my pet, not yours.
So you moved out of the bed and onto the floor.
Suddenly the creature stirred and spoke.
I blamed the reptile. ‘It’s got to go,’
I said. ‘Honestly - it’s eaten our whole bed.’
‘For God’s sake,’ you replied, ‘look quick at the pillow
where the thing sleeps.’ I looked, looked again -
the snake was gone. ‘Who ate the mattress then?’
I cried. ‘And what did the snake say?’
Love’s dead, it said.
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