Maggie Lily

Playground Slugs

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Playground Slugs

Why did the boys want to kill

my slugs?

A recompense?

For being born pot-bellied

 

and sold to war?

Their lives already claimed

by television and politicians

to die for what I would become:

 

A woman who would know

the sexual reproduction of gastropods.

That they intertwine inverted

penises for an external sperm exchange.

 

Their bodies seething in an

opal foam, slow and tender

against these

bleating and bucking,

 

in a chain-linked

playground of the co-op elementary.

The rot hollow of a fallen

tree, removed for a basketball court,

 

was more teeming

more inviting,

than the rainbow, plastic equipment,

as alien and twisted

 

as DNA.

I picked away at the bark,

which splintered beneath my nails,

fingered the tangy mosses.

 

I coveted

a trio of slugs.

All daughters and sons.

A yellow, a brown, and one

 

with a lonely eye stalk

that couldn’t have been plucked by me,

but may have been,

no wait, it was definitely

 

Jonah.

The tree was my slugs’ home

and sustenance,

like eating away at a womb. 

 

The bees grinded

with fever in the

honeysuckle that tried to breach

our fences.

 

Here the boys scrambled

but never struck.

Horseplay is not permitted

within playground limits.

 

Instead they drag their sharpened sticks

along the gravel courtyard. 

The clinking rocks shout against the bees.

Each species arrogant in their purpose

 

and loud.

I wanted to trace my children’s

slugslime with my tongue, so

I drooled on the bark.

 

Wiped my sweat away with

a stained, secondhand t-shirt.

Look! I secrete!

The boys looked too,

 

gathered closer.

They with their sticks,

taunted us, threatened death,

still at a safe distance

 

because they knew

not to anger a mother.

I glared and called them bullies,

and that seemed to be enough

 

to send them chasing after

something else small and spineless.

The slugs still flinched at

my touch.

 

The yellow one, wary,

puckered, and belched.

Maybe my slugs knew then

or always knew

 

that I always kept a packet of salt in my pocket.