Blue-eyed Snake

What in the world is a blue-eyed snake?
A sign that things are surely changing,
that what is old is sloughing off,
not yet replaced by something new.
It’s hard to know just where you’re going
when you can’t see just where you are.

Snakes shed their skin. It’s how things are.
It must be hard to be a snake:
about the time you get things going
your eyes grow dim and things start changing.
You have no choice: you face the new
blind as a bat. The first thing off

is eyelid skin — before it’s off
it turns opaque, and your eyes are
useless and blue. It’s nothing new,
unless you don’t know you’re a snake,
can’t understand why things are changing,
can’t see which way the way the world is going.

I can’t help wondering if what’s going
on with us is not far off
from snakes whose skin is always changing.
How vulnerable it seems we are
to fear of change. Like a snake
reflexively we hiss at new

threats perceived though unseen, new
phantoms in the fog, going
past in the dark. A shedding snake
will strike at you to warn you off.
I have a sense that’s how we are
these days. Life is always changing —

new people keep arriving, changing
settled ways, demanding new
accommodations in how we areb
used to speaking, used to going
about our days. Something’s off,
we think, and learn to strike like snakes.

We’re holed up like a blue-eyed snake.
The old skin’s changing. Take it off.
We need new skin where we are going.

PAUL HOOKER is a teaching elder member of New Covenant Presbytery and associate dean for ministerial formation and advanced studies at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.