Posts Tagged ‘ignorance’

“Snakes in the ‘Hood.”

August 20, 2017




My beautiful picture

Second half of vandalized mural

About three years ago, a muralist came into our community, and on a bare wall, painted the most difficult and original, high artistic endeavor I have ever seen.  He ws French, and his “Artist’s statement” was painted in French, and few could read it.  So they painted over the mural.   I would agree that this mural called for discussion as to what it ‘meant’.   It was beautiful, inspiring, confusing.  But the ‘leadership’ of this particular community decided to vote their own ignorance.   Tant pis.


“Snakes in the ‘Hood”

“When people see a snake, they think serpent.

When they think serpent, they see Satan”

 ….former State Rep. Douglas Dean, who was  arrested for cocaine.



Oh, my dear garden snakes,

Run and hide in the leaf litter!

You appear each spring

Birthed from that old stump,

Your beautiful duns, browns, moss greens

Intermingling with last year’s fallen leaves.


I remember you as divine jewelry

Around  slender wrists as a child.

You terrified the adults

And transformed me into Cleopatra.


A box under my bed

Disturbed by a dust mop,

A dozen of you slithered out

The 200 year old wood floors,

Cold on your bellies.


The head of the  mop screamed–

I never could find you all.

Did you disappear out that window

Where you dropped to the ground?


I mourned for those missing,

Learned adults didn’t care

For the miracles of nature.


Eating blackberries from

A stretch of rambling bushes,

A July North Carolina sun

Warm for the mountains

And below me,

A cottonmouth doing the same.



Backing out of fear and respect,

But the blackberries were good

And enough for both to share.


I remember the black racers

Hanging  in the pine trees

And kids daring

To run under them,

Hoping one of us get squeezed

In  embracing coils

But it never happened.

You knew our game.


In cultures you snakes

Were 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  in reverence,

Loosened them into the fields

Where  golden corn was growing

To  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,


You will be beloved by me.


Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017, (“Snakes in the Hood” is published in “Pitcher of Moon”, 2015,

“What if God Were One Of US?”

March 18, 2017


"Eagle" Jane Kohut-Bartels, watercolor, 2005

(“American Eagle”, watercolor, Jane Kohut-Bartels, 200o)


“What if God were one of us?

Just a slob like one of us?

Just a stranger on a bus

Trying to make His way home

Back to Heaven all alone

Nobody calling on the phone

Except maybe the Pope in Rome…”

—-Joan Osbourne, “What if God was one of us?” lyric on album, “Relish”, 1995

There are some things that bond us to another.  This song is one of them.  Years ago, when my son Christopher was about 18, he sideswiped a car (my car…) and had to go to ‘learn to drive right, idiot school’.  It was way down in Macon, Ga., about an hour or more from Atlanta.  I drove this time, and on the way back we played Osbourne’s album on the then-working cd deck.  No kidding, I was really pissed at my son for the damage and having to take my time to do this.  But this song turned a lot around that day.  We were moved to hold hands and sing along and frankly, it is one of the most memorable moments in our lives together.

Last night Christopher called and we talked about this memory and it had impacted him as much as it had me.  He’s 29 now, and a fine young man and a much better driver.

Childhood wasn’t easy for him.  We adopted him at 3 years, the month we came back from an extended stay in Europe.  I was supposed to be going to school at the University of Edinburgh, but the countryside was so beautiful, I couldn’t sit still.  So we travelled all over the UK and painted in the pouring rain.  When we got back, Christopher was ours in a month.  My mother visited about 2 months later.  I heard this cry from the upstairs bathroom, and racing upstairs, found my son on the floor, crying his eyes out.  Her handprint was blazing across his cheek.  “He spit at me.”  That was her excuse for hitting him. She was non apologetic, very casual about it.  A 73 year old woman and a three year old child who had come from a ‘failure to thrive’ foster home.  I should have frog marched her out of my house, and sent her back to the airport. Actually, I should have dropped her out a window to land amongst the daisies.  I don’t know why I didn’t react, but I didn’t.  I guess I was afraid of her anger and excuses then.  I’m not anymore.  I got her ticket.

With a mother like that, who had shown her  emotional abuse to others her whole life, I was having my own issues ‘being a mother’ at 43.  But I learned to be a better mother than what I had  and he grew up amongst us, my husband and myself with love and devotion. My father’s side of the family were very supportive of our precious son.

But life always brings guilt and regret.  Last night talking on the phone, he said ‘he had no complaints about his childhood.”  It made me cry because I did.  To say that I ‘didn’t know better’ is a lie:  You don’t carry the abuse from your own childhood into your parenting, but it’s something you have to work on.  And the demons from the past are hard to defeat.  They keep rising up and you have to beat them down.

There are so many regrets in my memories, but mostly not protecting him from abusive teachers, strangers, and the above family member who actually is emotionally sadistic.  But he claims he is fine and has rolled with the punches.  I just haven’t.

Last night we sang the above song again, and his memory for the lyrics is better than mine.  This morning I have been playing that song at top volume as I do housework.

I don’t know that I will ever be a Believer in God.  I’ve seen the misogyny and the abuse of family fundamentalists (who rather call themselves ‘early Christians’… a nicer name than fundamentalist…or maybe it’s an attempt at a class status change) but this song has made an impact on both of us on a foundational level.

I am glad my darling boy has survived the abuse of life and the abuse of ignorant parents here.  His start was rocky as he was only 24 lbs at three years, but he has blossomed into a wonderful person. With or without God, this is a blessing.

Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted, 2017, with gratitude to Toni Spencer for her friendship and sensibilities.  With love.



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