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Stooping–Lauro Palomba

stooping

over and over, oftentimes squatting

a teenage girl some ways ahead

on the gravel lakeside trail,

fortunate finder of spilled change

but oddly, after each crouch

sidling sideways to stoop again

into the undergrowth fringing

the frisky water pestering the rocks

 

dozens and dozens of them

as my curiosity approached

not pieces of silver but shells

snails migrating free of hibernation

many badly crunched by April

morning cyclists and joggers

so much terrain, such paltry speed

an unfairness that disquiets

and among the caravan this saviour

 

when I reached a second patch

of nomads, some withdrawn inside

their spiraling, hardened tents,

shell flaps shut, but more

bent on fulfilling their biotic drive

I was unaware (the girl surely

no less) that hermaphrodite snails

prefer mates. With poky instincts –

one millimeter per second

a kilometer not under a week

hardly faster than lost coins –

snails foreplay half the day

then fire Cupid love darts

grappling hooks lashing themselves

together, perhaps lest they reconsider

ending up vulnerable and alone,

doing so nocturnally in damp habitats

seldom as exhibitionists sporting

in the glaring of a crowd

 

I suppose I remembered mollusks

lack skeletons or bones; pests

to a few, food to the rest

the entire world – animal

and human alike – their predator;

movement by muscular contraction;

mucus to ease the friction met

so they might crawl over a razor

unnicked; a slimy, shiny path

their notice of having humbly passed

 

but I knew nothing of lifting

ten times their body weight; of

toughening and repairing damaged

shells to little avail against

crushing odds; of their fighting

back after death with the parasites

they harboured; of their seeing

the earth but not hearing it

 

ignorant of these somehow

kindred facts, I chanced upon

a third colony of probing eyes

atop twin tentacles inching

to survive and shouldn’t have

been bemused at myself for,

out of a clear sky,

stooping

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