Poetry Journal

Issues / Volume 5 Issue 2 , November 2015


Slow Life with Inscrutable Snail

Carolyn Leach-Paholski

                      The snail 
  is a universe without a mind
  and I am a mind without a place to be today
                      at large 
  in a book that I’m writing
  on somewhere else—with someone else in mind.
                      He has 
  taken the morning to move between 
  a potted palm and me
                      on one foot, 
  stripped to the waist 
  like Sisyphus carrying his stone. 
  In an hour 
  or so he has made my pot plant an indoor topiary—
  a thought balloon above a stunted stem 
                      and nothing can save it now.
  His work has been done a bite at a time
  and like a film run in reverse—
  it’s a masterpiece resolved into a doodle.
                      I am Issa 
  and feeling uninspired. 
  I am Bashō on a bad day rewriting Homer as haiku.
                      I have
  sixteen syllables in hand 
  and a book’s worth of words boiled clean of ideas.
  The snail is a godsend—today any distraction will do.
                      As he clips
  the Yucca into a cartoon tree 
  and I watch his work 
                      instead of my own,
  it occurs that the snail 
  would just be a slug without its shell.
                      I test this idea on him 
  and he thinks on it as he kneels in his shell, 
  his upward looking eyes on the glory of slow things. 
                      By the time he is done with my tree 
  I have uncapped my pen 
  but the light is poor and the nib bends as I write
                      into an awkward bow.