On Protests, Petitions, Struggles, Revolutions, and Other Messy Things

Some walkers in the woods
enjoy the ripe splurt of a slug under tractioned sole
muscles pulped & jellied
deliciously split                        smeared            kissing the dirt with open mouth
with words and chants and open skin.

Children poke banana slugs
with sticks
or finger tips
they pick
them up, children see what’s there
and haven’t yet learned to turn away disgusted. Children
always touch even the slime.

They say (the older kids, the siblings, the powerful ones)
they say that touch hurts a banana slug.
They say that the more you care for it, the sooner you kill it
that it’s better to crouch and cheer on its progress
through pine needles or
internet headlines
better to catch your breath from the romance of almost touching.
They say it’s better not to be involved.
I am old enough now
to take this story’s end for granted. That the slug
will cross the path intact and burrow into a fit of ivy
that the movement will trundle on
with or without my involvement.
That when justice crawls forward
unglamorous, quixotic
my place is an observer, breath clouding mustard skin
in careful separation.

They say, don’t touch a banana slug. One of you will get hurt.
They don’t say, your fingers will stick to its icewater slime
like tongue to frozen metal
you will twitch to tug away its yellow peel. They don’t say,
the earth will paperweight your feet
will cash in its claim to your out-skewed joints
will yank you down into this flat-bellied crawl.
To be big again is no longer simple. Your muscles have felt
the cramp of insufficiency. Of having no power
but the certainty
of straining in the right direction. If you stay small,
you need no excuse to dwindle.
The arc of the universe creaks like your knees
as it bends to the dirt with open mouth.
If you unfurl back to your furthest height
like a wrung-out sponge unclenching
you will learn not to think about slugs.
The older kids praise you practical now.
Congratulations. You stride efficiently
You crush with ease
If your soles burst a slug or two
what’s it to you?
Listen. Your full-sized brawn leaves you weak in benevolence
but you are never too old
too grown-up
too mature
for the messiness of convictions.
Go on, bend down,
or all of us will get hurt.