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,
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.