The Snails


And the rain keeps the sidewalk dark this morning,
an inverse Red Sea, water parting the desert
you walk to work—your mind busy ticking
off obligations. And if you could picture

the last two hours of struggle as one minute,
a line of snails would burst from the green verge
like a salute of mistimed starters’ bullets,
loping into leads and losses for the curb—

each corkscrew staircase shell a leaning sail
in a yacht race—the wind tilting this miniature
Exodus as it aims at an invisible
Promised Land. And some imperative Nature

has yet to explain to us draws them over
the concrete path we haven’t yet explained to Her—
bodies scoured on the drying foundation,
eyestalks strained at some strange salvation.


Sleep’s void gives way to a quality of light
that yields to the dawn’s sense of duty—
and night cedes to day without space to admit
what’s been lost in both time and beauty.

Fingers count in pockets—two thirds of life
pledged to sleep and slow minds—and I predict
what promise remains will fail, humbled by lies
and cheques, both of which have become my product.

I fear I was mistaken, that I misspoke,
misheard, was unaware of the complex
nature of the situation—I leapt and broke,
before I looked, just what did not need fixed.

Habit and a path lead my morning walk,
and each hour that I tap on the stone of this clock
keeps water flowing and the Egyptians at bay,
but still leads to Jordan’s bank as ordained.


And amidst this well-composed painting of speed
sit odd wrecks, fragmented spirals cutting
through wet bodies—smashed chariots in a sea
of reeds—broken, not drowned. And it’s not cunning

or God that saved some over others, but chance—
the feet of those keen or restless few
on their way to work ahead of you advanced
despite the slow story playing below.

And whether they did or didn’t care,
and whether following under orders
or fleeing under orders, and whether
some even enjoyed the slight pop of life under

foot, you can’t know. You’re moving through the race
as one does a book, at a historian’s pace—
wondering how, between catastrophic fate
and divine interest, life ever lasts the day.


George Murray is the author of four well-received books of poetry, including The Hunter (McClelland & Stewart, 2003), and The Rush to Here (Nightwood Editions, 2007).


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  1. […] We’ve just posted a new poem by George Murray. We think you’ll be suitably impressed. Check it out. For more information (on George, not the poem), you can visit his website […]

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