In a poem reflections on an unfortunate experience may evolve into an awakening to a brighter, inclusive insight. Mary Oliver's poem "The Black Snake" moves from thoughts of the "terrible weight" of death, occasioned by the accidental death of a black snake, to an awareness of a " brighter fire." The poem begins:
When the black snake
flashed onto the morning road
and the truck could not swerve--
death, that is how it happens.
In the poem's conclusion, death has its reprieve:
reason burns a brighter fire, which the bones
have always preferred.
It is the story of endless good fortune.
It says to oblivion: not me!
It is the light at the center of every cell.
It is what sent the snake coiling and flowing forward
happily all spring through the green leaves before
he came to the road.
copyright 1992 by Mary Oliver
NEW AND SELECTED POEMS
The Beacon Press
Neva Herrington is a poet and former educator. She is currently working on a new book of poetry, a collection of short stories, and her memoir. Her inspiration comes from her own experience and the work of other poets.