“Snakes in the ‘Hood”, a poem…..

My beautiful picture 


part of hte painted over Artist's Statement

part of hte painted over Artist’s Statement

Roti’s Artist Statement, in French, painted over, and this is a double sin as it explained the wall painting very well. In French, so the so- called leadership probably couldn’t read it.  Ignorance tends to destroy things they can’t understand, but the rest of us, who can, suffer.

I am working on ‘Book II’ of “The Nightingale’s Song”, and hope to publish  some of it on this blog soon.  So I am taking some time to post some poetry.

I am wrapped up in the further study of Tengus, weaponery and other dangerous things that go into this part of “The Nightingale’s Song” but am also taking some serious time to study Shintoism and to flesh out Lord Jizo and some other deities of Shinto belief system. 

Yesterday was not a good day.  I stepped on a coiled copperhead but didn’t get bitten, even when I reached down and grabbed his tail, thinking it was a garden snake. It was a 14 inch copperhead, common in the South. He got away and when I thought about it, he was doing me a favor.  Then I stuck my hand in the mailbox and pulling out the mail, my hand and arm was covered by red ants. The biting kind.

So, I think I need to stay indoors and read for a few days. At least until the itching subsides.

This poem turned out to be rather controversial, but so it goes.  I wrote it to try to counter the ignorance of some community ‘leaders’ (and community residents)  in their destruction of a startling wall painting commissioned by Living Walls in Atlanta by an acclaimed International French artist, Pierre Roti.  But so what. Art, and especially public art, is generally controversial, especially when faced with religious ignorance and intolerance.  And I’m not saying that this was an ‘easy’ painting to understand. But there was basically no attempt to discuss this.  These community leaders, and Douglas  “What? That’s not my cocaine in my wallet!” Dean was one of them , but there were more, including two art hating and ignorant council thugs.  They painted over the long painting with no interest in any discussion.  That this was illegal didn’t bother them one bit.  Barbarians in our midst.

“Snakes in the ‘Hood” is from a manuscript “Pitcher of Moon” , presently lost somewhere in the Arizona desert.

Lady Nyo





“When people see a snake, they think a serpent.


When they think serpent, they see Satan”


….former State Rep. Douglas Dean.



Oh, my dear garden snakes,

Run and hide in the leaf litter!

You appear each spring as if birthed from that old stump,

Your beautiful duns and browns and moss greens

Intermingling with last year’s fallen leaves.


I remember wearing you as divine jewelry

Around my slender wrists as a child.

You terrified the adults

but transformed me into Cleopatra.


I remember a box under my bed

Disturbed by a dust mop,

And a dozen of you slithered out

Felt the 200 year old wooden floors,

Cold on your bellies.

The handler of the dust mop screamed

And I never could find you all.

Did you disappear out that window

Where you would have dropped 30 feet to the ground?


I mourned for those missing

And learned adults didn’t have the tolerance

Of children for the miracles of nature.


Later I remember eating blackberries from

A stand of rambling bushes,

Warmed by the July sun

Of the North Carolina mountains

And below me a cotton mouth doing the same.


I backed up out of fear and respect,

But the blackberries were good

And enough for both to share.


I remember the black racers

That hung in the pine trees

And we, daring each other

To run under them,

Hoping one of us would get squeezed

In your embracing coils

But it never happened.

You knew our game.


In other cultures you snakes

Symbolized  the umbilical cord

Joining all humans to Mother Earth.


In ancient Crete

You were the guardians

Of the Goddess’ great mysteries

Of birth and regeneration.


The Hopi Indians

Joined the snake of the Sky Spirit

With the snake of the Earth

And dancing with them in great reverence,

Loosened them into the fields

Where the golden corn was growing

To bless and secure their fertility.



No garden hoe will touch you,

My dear little garden snakes,

No stoning of your innocence,

I will gather your twine-ing bodies

And lift you above the ignorance of bigotry.


They violate their God’s dictates

“Even to the lesser of you amongst us”

And you, without limbs or voice are surely that.


If not beloved by God, surely you will be beloved by me.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted 2012-13 




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8 Responses to ““Snakes in the ‘Hood”, a poem…..”

  1. annotating60 Says:

    Yes, snakes have certainly have gotten lots of bad press by the Jude-Christanic press.>KB


  2. ladynyo Says:

    Hi KB….thank you for reading and leaving a comment.

    I was unnaturally, culturally induced to fear, dread snakes, but damnit! They are beautiful creatures and part of the web of life and Nature. This poem was an expression of my outrage (as some of our poems are….) at the ignorance, intolerance of these so called community leaders who frankly, in my estimation (and in many other people’s eyes) were nothing but the usual poverty pimps, opportunists and thugs. They project their own superstitions and prejudices upon a community that doesn’t go forward or think much for themselves. It’s church and these ‘leaders’ who swing the cats.

    Interestingly enough, this same community doesn’t bark at the gang grafitti on this wall or the whores that prowl the sidestreets. I guess it’s all an issue of culture. However, IF someone had taken the time and intelligence to translate Roti’s Artist Statement to these same residents, perhaps they would have understood how powerful and sympathetic this message on the wall was. But then again, there was ‘danger’ in this ‘foreigner’ artist raising these issues. It would have (possibly) broken through the collective stupidity and narrowness. But not of the leadership. There in lay their power and control…and might we say…votes??

    Can’t have that. IF the masses started thinking for themselves, the game would be over for these leading opportunists.

    Bah! There will be other murals….and perhaps they will bring some intelligence to the table.

    Lady Nyo


  3. Caliban's Sister Says:

    Oh my! What a marvelous poem, so generous in soul and spirit, even to a cotton mouth sharing warm blackberries! What a beautiful poem, Jane, I’m printing this out and putting it on my fridge. For all the creatures who bite and sting and share the planet earth with us. All shall be shared with, except poisonous narcissists.

    A copperhead and red ants in the same day? Boy, Lord Jizo is telling you that along with the creatures you love and nurture, he is also the God of those who have venom. It takes all kinds. Those in the animal kingdom lack malice. love CS


  4. Steve Rosberg Says:

    So true and so sad.


  5. ladynyo Says:

    Hey Steve!

    Yeah, it is. And this is why the neighborhood won’t change. I admit that the mural was a complex statement, and it took some thought/close up observation to understand, but it wasn’t given a chance. Joyce Sheperd apparently said that “IF” the community wanted a mural, SHE would provide one, but not this one. It’s another example of the ignorance, the mind control, etc, that we have experienced for decades here. The neighborhoods remain backward and with nothhing here except stop and go stores, no restaurant, nothing of any interest. You have to go miles in either direction to find anything of interest. But so it goes. Until someone replaces her with a more progressive mind, and someone who is not corrupted by the usual politics of Atlanta, there will be no change.

    Thank you for reading, Steve.

    Lady Nyo


  6. ladynyo Says:

    Hi CS!! Yes, you are right. There are some lessons to learn with the snake and ants this week. LOL! Step carefully and don’t stick your arm in something loosely.

    Of all the creatures, the ones who are without any redemption are he poisonous narcissists. You got that right. I would rather take my chances with the copperheads.

    Thank you, CS for reading and your lovely comment. The war goes on here.




  7. Nick Nicholson Says:

    Snakes are no better or worse than any other creature. The bad press they unfairly receive is entirely due to the lingering smelly myths of superstitious Bronze age desert people. Ugh!

    Jane, your generosity of spirit towards nature and its creatures shines through in this lovely poem. Bravo!


  8. ladynyo Says:

    Dear Nick! What a surprise! Yes, you are right…smelly myths. LOL!

    This mural situation was just another opening salvo in the War here between culture and ignorance. Living Walls, an international arts organization didn’t know what they were stepping into, but we did. And that is not to say that this mural was ‘easy’ to understand. It was extensive, compelling and complex, but didn’t deserve to be painted over by some of the most ignorant members of our community. However, it was, and they lied: they promised a meeting to discuss the issues around the mural before they did this, and they never bothered to hold it.

    Sadly, Living Walls just announced their mural sites, and our neighborhood wasn’t among them.

    Thank you, Nick, for reading this poem and for your supportive comment.



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