"Snake Lake" is the fourth and final song in Lori Laitman's Men With Small Heads cycle, which sets the poetry of Thomas Lux. This particular poem can be found in his 1986 volume Half Promised Land (as well as New and Selected Poems of Thomas Lux: 1975-1995).
by Thomas Lux
My friends, I hope you will not swim here:
this lake isn't named for what it lacks.
This is not just another vacant scare.
They're in there--knotted, cruel, and thick
with poison, some of them. Others bite
you just for fun--they love that curve
along the white soft side of your foot,
or your lower calf, or to pierce the nerves
with their needles behind your knees.
Just born, the babies bite you all the same.
They don't care how big you are--please
do not swim here. There is no shame
in avoiding what will kill you: cool pleasure
of this water. Do not even dip your toes
in, because they'll hurt you, or worse,
carry you away on their backs--no,
not in homage, but to bite you as you sink.
Do not, my friends, swim here: I like you
living: this is what I believe, what I think.
Do not swim here--lest the many turn to few.