deepundergroundpoetry.com

Litany of a snail

† †
I was fresh from the shower, † † †
in sweats, a t-shirt, no bra, sodden hair, † † †
getting ready for mass, † † †
when the deputy knocked on the door, † † †
and solemnly brought to his lips a name † †
with which Iíd not let pass my own † † †
in years. † † †  
† † †
Itís a sin to speak ill of the dead. † † †
I remembered her † † †
bright-red hair... † † †
† † †
I remembered when I was nine, † † †
and we lived in an efficiency † † †
with her Ďformerí dealer, † †
in a city far away from my home. † †
I slept on the couch, † † †
my belongings in a small † † †
box in the closet. † † †
It was the first time Iíd been more † † †
than minutes from the † † †
safe-haven of my grandparents. † † †
† † †
It was a time of childish, † † †
desperate hope; † †
a time in which † † †
I sought miracles in † † †
bits of glitter on the † † †
school-art projects that † † †
werenít allowed on his fridge, † † †
† †  
and sometimes found them. † † †
† † †
We took a walk by the river one day, † † †
she was sober, working, † † †
and had a quality moment † † †
for me. † † †
† † †
I was very quiet, † † †
very creepy as a child, † † †
the watchful stillness of † † †
chronic prey † †
etched in my being; † † †
naught but a shadow passing † † †
through a streetlight on a dark sidewalk. † †
† † †
Yet that day, † † †
I ran free in the sun, † †
sucking in the tang of the † † †
brackish water, † † †
picking at barnacles on the broken pylons † † †
as the light struck her hair and † † †
dazzled me with her beauty. † † †
† †  
I found a snail † † †
crawling along a slime-covered rock † † †
with a long spiral shell † † †
that begged for shellac. † † †
She had a fast-food cup in her hands, † † †
† †  
and for once † †  
(for once) † †  
I asked for something, † † †
I begged, † † †
let me have it † †
please † † †
please † † †
please
† †  
† † †
From the soggy paper cup † † †
to a clean mayonnaise jar, † † †
refreshed with new river water † † †
every week; † † †
it was my best friend. † † †
† † †
Strange little girl with the too-old eyes, † † †
whispering secrets to a murky glass jar † †
on the days when the watchful † † †
wall of fear crumbled † † †
against loneliness. † †
† † †
I lost track of the snail maybe a half a year, † † †
and three different couches later, † † †
in the dead of night when we fled to the † † †
Salvation Army homeless shelter † † †
hoping to find a cot, † † †
a place on the floor, † † †
anywhere where the † † †
night didnít explode † † †
in furniture shrapnel. † † †
† † †
Tonight, Christmas Eve † † †
was the first time Iíd thought of † † †
the snail in decades, † † †
how much I actually cared for it, † † †
and how for a day † † †
she took time † †
and granted me † † †
a boon I couldnít actually afford, † † †
even at the age †ó † † †
† †  
a moment of escape. † † †
† † †
Her name passed my lips tonight, † † †
as the deacon read the litany for the dead, † † †
and I dabbed my left eye with the sleeve of my † † †
sweater in a disallowed moment † † †
of grief for them both. † † †
† † †
For that strange little girl † † †
with the flame-haired woman, † † †
who so hopelessly wanted † † †
to walk by the river † † †
on more than one † † †
clean day. † † †
† † †
Itís a sin to speak ill of the dead. † † †
† †  
When I went to the locker, † † †
a child in an adult world, † †  
and touched her cold hand, † † †
it was knowing they were both to be buried, † †
ó the girl, and the woman ó † †
† †  
and I will speak of them no more. † † †
† † †
I prayed then for peace, † † †
and was answered † † †
with the echoes † † †
of footsteps † † †
by the river. †
Author's Note
(originally posted 2012ish?)
All writing remains the property of the author. Don't use it for any purpose without their permission.
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