“If It Was a Snake” by Louis Jenkins

You’ve lost something, your car keys, or your watch
and you have searched for what seems like hours. But
then suddenly it appears, right there on the table, not
two feet away. “If it was a snake it would have bit you,”
Mother said. That’s what you remember, a phrase,
an old saying. My sister said, “Grandma told me,
‘Never wear horizontal stripes, they make you look
fat.’ That’s one of the few things I remember about
Grandma.” Or the words disappear and an image
remains. I was getting a lecture from my parents
about riding my tricycle all the way downtown. I don’t
remember anything they said. I remember looking
out the window, it was just dark, and a block away
a man wearing a white shirt and a tie passed under
the streetlight and vanished into the night. That’s all.
Out of a lifetime, a few words, a few pictures, and
everything you have lost is lurking there in the dark,
poised to strike.

“If It Was a Snake” by Louis Jenkins from Tin Flag. © Will o’ the Wisp Books, 2013.

3 thoughts on ““If It Was a Snake” by Louis Jenkins

  1. Jean

    Christy, this poem brings up so much for me. I’m often helping my ex find his glasses or car keys or wallet. It’s exasperating! He marvels at my ability to find things! haha But then just a day or so ago I needed my sunglasses against the glaring morning sun and some notebook I needed – couldn’t find either. Exemplified the adage of crazy looking same places again and again! Finally, there they were behind my chair. Whew. Then, I read your friend John’s essay re Baldwin and went to my bookshelf and looked through a set of his works selected by Toni Morrison and as I skimmed the pages realized how even his words have been lost or never found by me. So John says perhaps all we have are his words and maybe we don’t even have all of those. I have seen videos of him in conversation which I treasure. What a brilliant soul! I love the fantastic discourse here. I just must chime in with my 2c! ❤ Thank You!


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