Reptile Ron


Ron would bring his slow worms

to Sunday school. There the beasts

would slither like Satan from his pocket

along the pew, my way. I shuddered,

but the vicar’s bird-of-prey eye,

able to scorch and raze humanity,

was helpless to quell the serpent.

I suffered the torments of the damned.


At home, I read in fascination

of the king cobra’s poisonous bite.

(Makers of empire and exploring men

gone within minutes of the nip).

Constrictors, pythons, swallowing sheep,

wrapping a coil of ten yards long

around such beings as ourselves.


Yes, I know, the slow worm is harmless,

not a snake at all. And adders? We’d seen

odd ones, over the years, but their bite

would take a week to kill you,

if you died at all. And they were timid.

Well, that’s great to know, I thought,


but suddenly, the following Sunday,

as the slow worms slid the pew again,

I thought, now just suppose

it’s like the mushroom, toadstool thing

and Ronnie’s got this wrong

and that’s an adder slithering my way,

with the voice of the vicar powerless to help.


© Robert Nisbet