Volume 2 Number 1


Winter 2003

Lilith in the Garden

Elizabeth Barrette

The first time I saw her,
I almost hit her with my trowel,
Before my eyes resolved the dappled pattern
Of her shape against the leaves.
She lay in the corner of my herb garden,
A sulky little knot of snake,
Slender as my forefinger and patched
In brown and tan. Her eyes
Were cloudy and vague,
Sign of imminent shedding and
Mute explanation of her temper.

When I prodded her gently with the trowel,
She curled around it and tried to climb
Towards my hand. I shook her off
In the center of the garden,
Went on to plant my marigolds,
And did not expect to see her again.

Yet the next day I found her
Curled in the same place, between
The garlic chives and the brick border.
I set out a dish of water for her to soak in,
But never saw whether she used it or not.
Still, I imagined her slipping into the cool glass pool
And bathing by moonlight.

A few days later, she appeared again,
Clad in a new coat of mail,
All brightly gleaming,
Her eyes now sharp and black
As fresh-cut Venetian beads.
Her movement had become quick, fluid,
A spritely verve pouring forth
From her restored scales.

The apple tree a few yards away
Had begun to shed its petals, the fragrance
Of its blossoms still heavy in the air.
The tiny white cups of discarded petals
Littered the brown earth of the herb garden,
Over which the little snake crawled,
Supremely indifferent.

She stared at me with her swift eyes
And licked my scent from the spring wind.
She was neither afraid nor hostile
Towards me, and gave the distinct impression
That, if she ever spoke, she would tell no lies.
She seemed content to stay
In my herb garden, and I was certainly flattered
To have her there.

So I named her Lilith,
And could not help but wonder
If she too knew the secret Name of God.