Stephanie McCauley

The Gospel of Snail




When I was small, I knew my universe well.

I knew the boundaries of my shell. Coiled

in a world of will, I watched my slug relatives


drag themselves along, naked and trailing

particles any desperate creature could follow.

I trailed particles of my sludgy self too, but at least


I wasn’t nude. What I lacked in mass,

I made up in wisdom. What I lost in time,

I gained circling the potted plant called home.





When I died, I wasn’t a snail anymore. I was

dividable flesh for the ants to carry home. Each

took a bit of me to their lair of fine soil.


I comforted my dead self with the knowledge

I was making others alive, but I missed the universe

that pressed back against my whole. What parts


of me now lived in flowerpots, in blue jays’ bellies?

What parts slid down the gullets of new animals,

only now discerning the limits of their worlds?





Consciousness lives in every thing. You are right

to give me a voice when you play the waiting

game at the airport. Snail’s pace, snail’s pace


you sing, trailing your finger up a kind man’s

arm. I am the universe we made together, and you

know what I need. You finish the song:


Snail’s gonna take a break, take a break.

What we lack in speed, we make up in dedication.

What we miss in person, we love.





The Atheist’s Prayer IV


Who have I been talking to? Tell me,

you—you who are not my god, tell me

why I’ve spent so many hours finding

words for a concept un-fleshed?


Flesh lives in the other room, flesh

is the man I loved earlier today,

flesh is the body I curl against and

miss when it goes away, but you—


‘you’ is a concept I wanted to own

and twist like a ribbon of hair,

a secret held close to my chest,

my great chamber of movement,


some certainty I lived for something

more than living. I think I’ve been selfish.

I’ve neglected the living in favor of

the after-living, the sleep-living,


the what-am-I-doing-when-I’m-not

living, I think I’ve been tipped

back, my neck impossibly angled

so some honey could ooze down


my throat. I think I force fed myself.

I think I wanted and I gave that wanting

form and I loved that wanting beyond

my own having, my own having,


the body asleep in the other room,

the body I will return to soon, the body

I will hold against my body to feel

its frailty, its entirety, its end.


Stephanie McCauley is a writer and editor based in Austin, Texas. Her work has appeared in Blue Monday Review, Sage Hill Press, and Torrid Literature.

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