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Clade Song 13

Wherever there appeared a gleaming
slime trail from the night before
to make me think that something magical
had passed by the geraniums,
my father placed a saucer and then poured
cheap beer in it until it almost overflowed.
The story I was told was that the slugs
did not appreciate the beauty
of geraniums or other
ornamentals bordering the slab
of patio where we dined freely
in the summer and did not discuss
or even think about what the controlled
explosion of development had done
to the intricate biota.
I could not explain why I got out
of bed each night and tiptoed down
two flights of stairs and out the storm door
to upend the saucers, and my father
could not fathom where the beer had gone
when he picked up the saucers in the morning.
He’s been rather dead
for more than twenty years, and still
I don’t know if he hears me anymore
or sees what I’ve become.
I’d like to tell him
slugs have been hermaphrodites
for half a billion years.
I’d like to tell him that
last night while smoking an unmentionable
beneath a sugar maple that has been here
since the Revolutionary War
I turned my flashlight on and saw
two leopard slugs entwined
like a caduceus and descending
                                                from a 
                                                strand of         
far more beautiful and stirring,
I’m afraid to say,        
than any patio geranium I’ve ever seen.


A mildly educated soul, John Popielaski is the author of a novel, The Hollow Middle, as well as several poetry collections, including Isn't It Romantic?. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as The Hollins CriticPoetrybay, and Roanoke Review. After taking Rewild Your Words, an online course taught by Paul Kingsnorth through The Wyrd School, he has been trying in his writing to decenter humans, with varying degrees of success as evidenced by the central role of two humans in this poem.