ROBERT MICHAEL PYLE

Fool: “Cans’t tell how an oyster makes its shell?”
Lear: “No.”
Fool: “Nor I neither; but I can tell why a snail has his house.”
Lear: “Why?”
Fool: “Why, to put’s head in; not to…leave his horns without a case.”

– William Shakespeare, King Lear, I:V

It happens sometimes in the garden at night
if I come back indoors without a light:
that sickening crackle that means my foot found
some elegant home, some snail carried ‘round.

Some broken-shelled snails can be repaired
but it’s not in the cards if their bodies are bared
The merciful thing would be long-snouted beetle
or sweet-talking thrush between warble and wheedle.

It’s not just the wreck of that beautiful swirl,
the keenest desire of my boyhood world,
nor taking the luckless mollusk’s life—
unaware, we assume, of love, or strife.

What troubles me are the ones that don’t die,
their castles shattered in bits where they lie.
And what I’d like to ask, of the snails I’ve tread on,
is what does night weigh, when you meet it head on?

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