Gary Lemons makes his home in Port Townsend, Washington; he visited Butte College last month for a poetry reading. "Snake" ($19.95 in paperback from Red Hen Press) is a series of poems, mostly in the voice of Snake himself, in response to old Mother Earth's revenge "as a planet under assault" from the human enterprise. "Snake is the last thing left alive," Lemons says in an interview that sets up the book. "The not quite disembodied voice of all the forms destroyed in the cleansing ... an intentional cleansing--down to the basic elements."
Earth is ticked and wants to put an end to Snake, the refuge of "the exiled of earth, the ones that wait inside the collective dream, to return to the planet." Snake's distinctive voice, interspersed with a poetic chorus, will not allow the reader to go, as that other poem says, gently into that good night.
In "Snake's Karma," probing questions: "Why not some better endin / For everything--why we got to bring / Down the whirlwind on ourselves, / Past and present rubbed together / Til the future's set on fire? // Why can't we do this simple / Thing--love one another, love the land / Includin the land of one another / And the planet where it happens?"
"If in the end," the poet says in "If," "there is only snake and his / Stetson filled with shadows. ... // Then freedom is not the thing but the ghost / Of the thing and the thing is long gone / Leavin only the inexplicable comfort of its touch. ..."
As a "Last Resort," Snake's "tired of bein the only target" so "he finds this poet name of Gary--gonna make him / See how it is, tell him bout the situation. // He sneaks into Gary's head while he sleepin, / Describin these things, tells him--write a poem. ..."
Enter god, and it's ticked. In "Meanwhile, God..." god "goes down to earth and says--brah--you / Killed my things--my peoples and animals... // Earth say, man, leave me alone. / Them humans hurt me bad, so I gets rid of them."
But Snake swallows god, and saves the earth. The tide turns.