You Are Camping

Hilary Peach

You are camping

in the south

somewhere that is


that is hot and dry

in the daytime

but that cools down

cools right down

at night


You are camping and you wake up one morning

in your sleeping bag

and the sun is already blazing

over the horizon

the birds are awake

and it’s a brand new day


But something is wrong

something is not quite right

you are lying on your back

in your sleeping bag

you are lying

on your back

and something

is on your stomach

You feel a weight there

like a sleeping cat

like a sleeping lover’s head


it is not a cat

and it is definitely not a lover.

What do you do when you

wake up in your sleeping bag

with a rattlesnake on your stomach?


You wonder if you are dreaming

but you do not stir yourself

because you know you are not dreaming

you think you must be mistaken

that this is not camping

there can be no snake

but you know you are not





You panic

but suppress the urge to panic

before you move because panicking

will wake up and

potentially agitate

the snake


You lie very, very still

you deliberately relax your entire body.

you take slow, deep breaths

you think of the people you love

and the people who love you.

You think of solutions.


You think about very, very

carefully unzipping

your sleeping bag and opening it up

but you don’t do this

because it will wake-up

and potentially agitate the snake


You think of a time bomb.

You think of anesthesia.

You try to remember

what you are supposed to do if this ever happens to you.


You try to remember the cure

for snakebite.

© Hilary Peach 2014