“End Game” by Gary Lemons

Gary Lemons



In the beginning the earth was alone.
It had no language. Did not speak. Nothing
Disturbed the blue work of its dreaming.

It dreamed blood. Not just water.
Not just a salt filled basin of rain. Something
Momentary. Unable to feel anything
But the desperate ripple of its own stone.

Blood demanded blood. Killed to get it.
Dripped from the ceiling in the room
Where earth dreamed of rivers.

Let there be an end to lights rising
From windows, the smoke of machines, the
Crash of stricken roses as they fall.
An end to the cadence of hearts, an end
To bird songs. Let there be
An end to mothering the already dead.

The dream is over. Earth is awake.



Snake comes down the mountain with a ghost
In its mouth. Ghost feels no pain pierced by fangs.
Tells snake nothing is left alive. Only snake.
Snake don’t care. Snake eats what’s left.

When nothing’s left snake likes himself for a meal.
Snake hunt in trees for earth’s early dreams.

Snake find ’em and pop ’em in his mouth.
Eat a dream before it finds a dreamer.
That way snake rules in a world without light.


Snake Dreams

Snake dreams of water. Seeing
Babies strung with seaweed floating
Effortlessly toward the sun.
Snake is alone with a truth
Worn so thin it has no sides.
A dreaming snake makes no sound,
Leaves no trail, weighs less than air,
Can’t be heard, seen or felt by earth.

Snake is the last living thing. Earth hunts
Snake. Snake dreams and can’t be found.

When snake is sufficiently invisible
He will awaken and the clock begins
Ticking toward the time earth will
Feel the faint slither of the last blood
Filled tube moving on its skin. Earth
Sensing, snake sensing.

Before then snake will eat himself.
Snake will become the distance
Between inescapable beginnings
And inevitable conclusions expressed
By the dying sun over quiet water.

Snake will surface in the pink light
Surrounded by pale children whose
Hands are filled with bones that once
Were inside their bodies.


Snake in the Grass

Sure snake like a good slither in wet grass
But only if the grass is wet with blood.
Ghosts don’t bleed so snake don’t like ’em.

There are billions of ghosts, dandelion puffs
Singing as they fly, screaming when they land.
But snake moves through snowstorms
Of souls knowing his hunger is punishment
For worshiping god one bite at a time.

With snake gone the earth would be alone.
Out of compassion snake remains alive.

For now snake slithers through a field
Of ghosts looking for vestiges of god to eat.

Snake thinks and chews old leaves—thinks,
No, these are only leaves, only old leaves.


Snake Eyes

Snake has no eyes. Don’t need to see.
Ain’t nothing to see in the entire world
But snake hisself and snake done seen hisself
In the face of things he ate alive, seen
Hisself in the pool of liquid that came out
Of them when snake squeeze ’em good.

Now snake be blind. Sharpen his other senses.
Knows when to freeze, knows the voice
Of every dead soul hanging in the air,
Knows especially when earth has felt him.
Knows then to dream his self away,
Leave behind his skin for earth to mince
While snake drifts through possible doors
Of awakening, not seeing, just knowing
When it’s safe to be reborn.

Why do snake pursue another snake to be?
Why not give it up, go be dead? Stop hungering.
Be a ghost like all the rest. Be easy.
Just hold still. Let earth come. Let earth
Rise. Feel the ground tremble. Feel his belly
Sawed open by stones and dirt slide in.
Feel earth inside and no longer be snake.

Haw. Haw. That funny. Snake can’t die.
Snake must live so not another world begins.

from Rattle #27, Summer 2007


Gary Lemons: “It’s almost a cliché to speak of poetry as a transformational process by which the poet begins, through the writing of the poem, the sacred work of becoming a better human being. I believe this. Each poem is a gift much like each prayer is a lesson. What matters to me is the tissue-deep shift I feel each time the words come out in that spare and clean way that tells me I have spoken as truthfully as I can in my own voice. The poem as it is written becomes my window as well as my mirror. I am grateful for this every day.”

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