Elizabeth Spires reads

S n a i l

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I watch you     traverse     the long green table
your trail slick & shiny     then pluck you up
& hold you     wet & glistening     in my open hand

You are a dusky brown     your mottled shell attached
by a wrinkled skinlike mantle     to the rest of you

Touched     your eyes     on long tentacles
retract     & you have to shorter lower tentacles
that feel the ground in front of you     first one
then the other     up & down     carefully they touch the ground

Like someone     feeling her way along     a pitch-black-corridor
with no way of knowing     where she is going
like me     perhaps

Your radula     spiked & ragged black mouthhole
tears up & chews     chalk & lettuce     that is all
you need     chalk & lettuce!

For you there is no fight     or flight
startled     you contract into your shell & wait
for Danger to tire     & walk away

A slow-going-forward     a staying-very-still     that is you
speechless creation that leaves me     finally     speechless

Sometimes     I cannot     bear the world
the beauty & perfection of a snail     created
by the same Creator     who created     me

But we are different     you are lowly & humble
you have grace & compression     whereas     I am awkward
& huge     & not humble     forgive me

Do you see me?     is the world seen
from your wary waving eye stalks     a perfect circle?
you see ahead of     & behind you     a thing
I cannot do     do you too     feel terror?

I     monster that I am     bow down before you