The Widow's Yard

by Isabella Gardner
Gardner. Isabella Gardner the collected poems. The Widow's Yard
For Myra "Snails lead slow idyllic lives . . ." The rose and the laurel leaves in the raw young widow's yard were littered with silver. Hard- ly a leaf lacked the decimal scale of the self of a snail. Frail in friendship I observed with care these creatures (meaning to spare the widow's vulnerable eyes the hurting pity in my gaze). Snails, I said, are tender skinned. Excess in nature. . . sun rain wind are killers. To save themselves snails shrink to shelter in their shells where they wait safe and patient until the elements are gent- ler. And do they not have other foes? the widow asked. Turtles crows foxes rats, I replied, and canned heat that picnickers aband- on. Also parasites invade their flesh and alien eggs are laid inside their skins. Their mating too is perilous, The meeting turns their faces blue with bliss and consummation of this absolute embrace is so extravagantly slow in coming that love begun at dawn may end in fatal sun. The widow told me that her husband knew snails' ways and his gar- den had been Eden for them. He said the timid snail could lift three times his weight straight up and haul a wagon toy loaded with a whole two hundred times his body's burden. Then as we left the garden she said that at the first faint chill the first premonition of fall the snails go straight to earth . . . excrete the lime with which they then secrete the opening in their shells . . . and wait for spring. It is those little doors which sing, she said, when they are boiled. She smiled at me when I recoiled.