Jack B. Bedell

Serpents and Insects, 1647

—oil on canvas, Otto Marseus van Schrieck,
New Orleans Museum of Art

White moths hover in spare light
and snakes coil around mushrooms
growing at the base of this tree.

All life must escape the darkness
of these leaves to feed, or to fight.
Even the blue trail of a fly

moves away from the leaves’ black
veins toward its own end. Everything
close to the tree’s trunk reduces

to textures, hiding places
where fangs flash against each other
and the darting tongues of frogs

spear wings straight out of the air.
Ground hard rock, and sky gone
dark—a single vine in memory of sun.


Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. His latest collection is No Brother, This Storm (Mercer University Press, fall 2018). Currently, he has been appointed by Governor John Bel Edwards to serve as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.