(life as a game of snakes and ladders)

As you roll the dice, you wonder if you can
train a snake to uncoil slowly, so you descend
in stages, arriving gently at the bottom. The

snake is an excuse to cancel the light. To return
to the womb. To become a root, seeking
water, having never seen a leaf, a flower in full

bloom. You feel the ladder, made of mist and
hope, always two rungs short of home. But a
goal is a function of desire and luck as much as

laboured ascent. The ladder serves the myth
that elevation is a need. Because stars and gods
live in the sky. Because the higher you go, the

further it still is. You move seven squares forward,
dodging a venomous fang, not quite at the
lowest step. It has been raining for days. If

there was a sky, it has collapsed into the ground.
You wonder how things would work, upside-down.
You turn the board around, count down from the end.


Finding a process that works, that cuts through the numb silence and translates stirrings to words is half the battle. I found my way around writer’s block by doodling my thoughts and putting them aside, letting the words come when they were ready.Β  It hardly matters if you can’t draw to save your life. It also doesn’t matter if the words aren’t exactly what the image intended to be. The poem is the journey! Am learning to enjoy it!Β 

20 thoughts on “Paradox

  1. yes, life certainly can be like a board of snakes and ladders, the steps depending on the throw of a dice. Perhaps we also won’t like to “game” too soon. πŸ™‚
    i am always interested in other writers’ writing process. Doodling is a good way, i have done it before. Now i just write down some phrases or lines that come to mind and if there’s enough, write the poem, and if not revisit another day. i also try to visualise what form or structure the poem should take.


  2. That’s a really clever way to work through a block. I think the imagery here is really strong in conveying the frustration of the speaker. I may have to give this method a whirl next time I get stuck!


  3. Life is indeed a game of Snakes, perhaps ladders. We have Chutes and Ladders for the game beginners but have never known of Snakes and Ladders. I always win at Monopoly, perhaps I would like this one. Our youngest Granddaughter, age twelve, is good at Clue and always wins, I’ll ask her about the Snakes.
    I liked the crazy journey regardless of the game.


  4. A poem is a journey, indeed, a process that offers results when it’s ready and not always exactly when we want it. I tend to blackout or garden when I’m stuck. Sometimes, the words spill out of other words… or out of the want a leaf turns toward the sun and me.


      1. My first choice is very old books that have been damaged beyond repair. I also blackout books by writer friends, who have asked me to. And magazines. I wish I could blackout newspaper, but I don’t like the texture of the paper.


  5. Oh, I think you can draw well enough to save your life! (But I take the point, that that’s not what matters in this process.)

    I love paradox, so of course I enjoy this poem. It’s also interesting to realise that when I played Snakes and Ladders as a kid, even then I sort of realised it was a metaphor for life. (Well, I suppose it’s obvious, really.)


  6. I gather the goal is to get up ladders to the top, and the snakes are obstacles? The drawing helps, as this is a game I don’t know. Sounds ominous. Lifelike. Though I think you give the snake a ground filled with good things. Thank God! as never, never–it seems–are we meant to escape. Powerful!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Your poems always make me work for my reward as a reader. πŸ™‚ This is to say, they encourage and improve my critical thinking, I love that about them. As a child, we used to play snakes and ladder board game at home. It wasn’t my favourite game because I was always aware of the amount of luck needed to keep climbing that ladder. Yet the slow descent as the snake uncoiled felt much easier and almost a relief to return to the ground. Talk about a paradox!

    Your doodle is accomplished, by the way. Keep drawing!


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