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The Widow's Yard

For Myra

“Snails lead slow idyllic lives . . .”

The rose and the laurel leaves

in the raw young widow’s yard

were littered with silver. Hard-

ly a leaf lacked the decimal scale

of the self of a snail. Frail

in friendship I observed with care

these creatures (meaning to spare

the widow’s vulnerable eyes

the hurting pity in my gaze).

Snails, I said, are tender skinned.

Excess in nature. . . sun rain wind

are killers. To save themselves

snails shrink to shelter in their shells

where they wait safe and patient

until the elements are gent-

er. And do they not have other foes?

the widow asked. Turtles crows

foxes rats, I replied, and canned

heat that picnickers aband-

on. Also parasites invade

their flesh and alien eggs are laid

inside their skins. Their mating

too is perilous, The meeting

turns their faces blue with bliss

and consummation of this

absolute embrace is so

extravagantly slow

in coming that love begun

at dawn may end in fatal sun.

The widow told me that her

husband knew snails’ ways and his gar-

den had been Eden for them. He

said the timid snail could lift three

times his weight straight up and haul

a wagon toy loaded with a whole

two hundred times his body’s burden.

Then as we left the garden

she said that at the first faint chill

the first premonition of fall

the snails go straight to earth . . . excrete

the lime with which they then secrete

the opening in their shells . . . and wait for spring.

It is those little doors which sing,

she said, when they are boiled.

She smiled at me when I recoiled.

from Isabella Gardner: The Collected PoemsFind it in the library

Copyright © BOA Editions, Ltd 2011
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Published in Isabella Gardner Poems

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