The poem “Serpentine” is about the paths of both a black snake and a man, the poet. The man is experiencing the snake’s final moment, and in this “dilated second” he reflects on how this moment came to pass. The poems speaks of the inevitability and predestination of death: the two of us had always been meant to meet here, my curved line crossing his as on some unknowable graph”? a relentless diagram, millions of faint red lines forming millions of tiny squares. “The Art of Drowning” takes a cynical look at “seeing your life flash before your eyes.” He thinks that a flash would be the worst possible way to have an overview of your life, “an eyebrow-singeing explosion of biography.” The majority of the poem seems to bear an attitude that says death is just death, there is nothing more: if something does flash before your eyes as you go under, it will probably be a fish, a quick blur of curved silver darting away, having nothing to do with your life or your death. “Picnic, Lightning” tells the thoughts of a gardener as he mulls over a line from Lolita and ponders “the instant hand of Death.” He makes sudden death more vivid “the thermos toppling over, spilling out on the grass,” life instantaneously pours out of the person. The gardener’s reaction to the constant threat of immanent death is not one of fear; rather, he begins to appreciate the small things, “the wheelbarrow is a wilder blue, the clouds a brighter white.” The obvious common thread binding these poems together is death, and while he approaches it from different angles, his attitude remains consistently impartial to fear, almost wanting to defy commonplace notions about death. In “Serpentine” he makes clear his view that there is nothing tragic about death, it will come when all the lines “The Art of Drowning” makes clear Collins’ notion that there is nothing phen…
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