I grew up in Florida near a lake and I have many memories involving alligators. Not good memories. They terrify me. And before I was old enough to be terrified, I was in rather close proximity a few times. Never attacked or chased, but close proximity is close enough for me! They still evoke a deep-down shudder of fascination for me. They scare me, but I can’t look away.
So when I read “Alligator Poem” in Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems, it really struck a chord with me!
I knelt down
at the edge of the water,
and if the white birds standing
in the tops of the trees whistled any warning
I didn’t understand,
I drank up to the very moment it came
crashing toward me,
its tail flailing
like a bundle of swords,
slashing the grass,
and the inside of its cradle-shaped mouth
and rimmed with teeth–
and that’s how I almost died
of foolishness in beautiful Florida.
—from “Alligator Poem” by Mary Oliver
Read the entire poem here.
Oliver’s poem somehow evokes both the power and primitive beauty of the horrific (in my opinion) alligator.
What do you think? And do you have any favorite poem about a fear of yours?
Addendum: I need to figure out how to make my picture stop appearing in the body of every post! And I do not like the way it looks like the alligator is about to eat my head!