Clade Song 8 Banner
CladeSong8 left

Banana Slug

Hikers pass in file, and we nod
like English gentry on promenade.
We’ve driven miles, all of us,
to tour this certified wilderness;

we follow the trail, binoculars
trained on shadowy branches
for the quick here and gone,
the sudden bursts of color.

I am getting too old for this,
so I sit on a lichened rock, its
patchwork a twin for the top
of my head. The others go on.

A slight shift in the leaves
at my feet, a lift and fall
like breath, and out peek four
pale horns, tasting the air,

then the rest, six maybe eight
inches of lemon chiffon.
My wife, retrieving me, says,
“It finally got a life of its own.”

A banana slug lured by a tiny
gray mushroom bunched
like brainflesh, stretches
eagerly, its black innards

like a rope snapped straight,
and I think of the ductwork
in the Pompidou, the strange
beauty of the guts of things.

I turn it over; an escalator
rises tail to mouth. In a fetid
world, here is your death
eater, floor scrubber, male

or female at whim, surfing
its slime. While the birds
amused with their “Who
am I?”, their trapeze acts,

nagging each other in song,
this shy introvert stumbled
onto the stage like the guest
at some daytime sob show,

baring its secret passages
with peristaltic glee, lighting
the leaves with the flame
of its elegant appetite.

Clade Song 8 right

Richard Spilman is the author of In the Night Speaking and of a chapbook, Suspension. He was raised in Normal, Illinois, on the banks of Sugar Creek, and half a block from Main Street. Ever since, he has been trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to escape.