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Flat-Spired Three-Toothed Snail


Dog days, shut sky, zero rain,
wood-sorrel and lamb's tongue
smell like hot pennies,
copper scorch. Tiny blazes almost
kindle in the leaf litter, almost
give off sputters of smoke.

Three-tooth struggles, sheds
his faith in the surety of rainó
for he has sensed warnings
in his four horns (which serve
as his noses, also his eyes),
has felt in his soft parts

pangs of dryness,
the pestilence that mortifies flesh.
He slips into the upheaved rock,
basilica of gritstone, its aperture
scarcely bigger than his own.
He passes through the vestry,

descends to the fissure-nave,
its font of moisture a sign to him
something like the unbidden tears
of our own carved saints, rivulet
of life flowing from stone. Didn't
the poet say to drink whatever juices

we can squeeze from the earth?
Three-tooth secretes his shell, shapes
its apex and spire-whorls, patches
the temple that houses him,
mixes his mortar from calcium
in the dark soil that he eats.


William Kelley Woolfitt

The Threepenny Review

Summer 2013


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