Digging for snails in the heat of a silent afternoon
all alone in the back of the backyard
watching the sun slip behind the eucalyptus
I dig too deep.

Ankles first and then the knees
the snails are forfeit to my predicament.
Digging for snails
in the heat after the rain
my fingers smelling like the loam
of the garden
my shoulders itching from the roots of the crabgrass.

I have dug myself a snail
a snail without a shell
till the sun on my skin
makes me quiver in the soil.
It has occurred to me that I'm afraid of snails
of their formlessness and motion -
in the shell a menace to the leaves
planted so carefully
out of the shell, a horror

- but I cannot not become one
for I have dug myself too deep.
I begin to lose my toes, my fingers
my brain which is gelling up my skull
cannot find the Thing to Do
the lever to extricate
a rope or a branch to pull upon
to remove my slugging self
from the rain-wet soil
(and even then, how would I remove
the stink from the tail?)

After much to-do
and several vain attempts
I prop my snailish face upon the surface
of the soil
spread myself still to the warm sky
and wait.

When God comes to dig for snails
like me, he must become one -
unlike me, he must not get stuck
but snail or no snail he is also a hand
and he removes me from the dug and dung
making of me also hands
that are also mourning doves

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