Poussin’s ‘Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake’ – Ranjit Hoskote

2 poussin's landscape

Poussin’s ‘Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake’


Lying there. Just knotted and crushed
by speckled coils. A whistling snap and bite.
I could have sworn I saw him smile.
But wrong, that. That was only his last try,
a grabbed breath short

of shining back to a table’s warmth,
the glow of fruit, his girl’s toasted cheeks.
He’s lying there and all the fishwife can do
is shrug her shoulders, throw up her hands:

This happens all the time, you know.
Got to go, they’re bringing the catch in.
Watch out for the nets, the thickets, the pits.
Don’t stumble around in the dark.
Don’t ask for it.

Ranjit Hoskote

About Ranjit Hoskote

Ranjit Hoskote is the author of five books of poetry, including Vanishing Acts: New & Selected Poems 1985-2005 (Penguin, 2006) and Central Time (Viking, 2014), as well as I, Lalla: The Poems of Lal Ded (Penguin Classics, 2011), a translation of the 14th-century Kashmiri mystic Lal Ded.