Our dear Hermaphroditus

Karen May

our old dog is gone, 
her ears – one jaunty, the other 
softly folded – no longer draw 
our hands at night, when thoughts 
jink and run, like wild dogs 
dodging shot
but we have found 
that we are not alone
in this quiet house 
we remember reading 
of a woman, held in disease’s deep travail, 
who found a song of solace
in the barely audible presence 
of a snail*
with that sotto voce world
in mind, we wake each morning 
– not to hear, but to read – 
a similar set of notes: 
a molluscan movement
in silver braille 
we watch for evidence 
of our slug’s nightly slide
out 
      of the 
                planter’s 
                         damp 
                        and 
                dark 
reservoir:
– on the kitchen bench 
repeated rests 
on a juicy half tomato 
– like an air solidified, glass bridges 
linking sill to window
–  and in the compost pail, 
a more vivace score, most likely 
for a yeasty drinking chorus 
each day our minute soloist
accompanies us,
and if we feel compelled to rise at night 
and carelessly snap on a light, 
our singular slug will slip away 
to their shady cave
after many months, we feared 
so small a being must soon 
senesce, but this morning brought 
surprise
s/he had slipped slowly 
inward, breathing a song 
of self – and had birthed 
a jellied clutch 
of round and perfect 
pearly lives 

* Elisabeth Tova Bailey, 2010, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  



Karen May’s poetry has been published by Bluepepper, Cicerone Journal (University of Canberra)Poetry d’Amour 2020 Anthology (WA Poets Inc.) and Rochford Street Review. She is a climate and ecological activist, animal helper and artist, and lives in Ngunnawal/Ngambri Country.

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