Poetry by Denise O’Hagan : Treading carefully

Treading carefully

Lu-ma-ca, es-car-got was how I knew them,
Three-syllabled slugs with shells and antennae;
I warmed to the sound of their names as much

As them. But ‘snail’ has quite another effect;
I loved it less, this glutinous gender-bending mollusc, 
Sly hugger of the dark side of our terrace flowerpots 

And the undersides of damp garden things, curled
In fallen autumn leaves or clumped into compost.
We see them, the mornings after rain, slinking 

Their way across the pavement, up walls. I tread
Carefully, to avoid the sickening crunch of shell
Underfoot, the gulping back of guilt. All things

Considered, they’ve had bad press: dismissed as
Pests, disdained for being slothful—a symbolism
Foisted on them in haste—at best, they’re routinely

Transmogrified into a delicacy of buttered up and
Garlicked steaming shells in wine to feed another
Deadly sin—our drift to gluttony. Small wonder

They move slowly, carrying the weight of judgment
Coiled heavy on their backs. But how many of us know
That snails respond to having their shells caressed? 

Originally published in Brushstrokes II, Ros Spencer Poetry Contest Anthology 2020–21 (WA Poets Publishing, November 2021)

Author bio

Denise O’Hagan is an award-winning editor and poet, born in Rome and based in Sydney. With a background in commercial book publishing in London and Sydney, she set up her own imprint, Black Quill Press, in 2015 to assist independent authors. Recipient of the Dalkey Poetry Prize, her work appears in various journals including The Copperfield Review, The Ekphrastic Review, Quadrant, Books Ireland, Eureka Street and Hecate. Her second poetry collection, Anamnesis, is due to be published in October 2022 (Recent Work Press).

By davidlonan1

David writes poetry, short stories, and writings that'll make you think or laugh, provoking you to examine images in your mind. To submit poetry, photography, art, please send to feversofthemind@gmail.com. Twitter: @davidLOnan1 + @feversof Facebook: DavidLONan1

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