It was making its way
the window screen
on the north side of the house
in the CommonWealth Urban Farm
my first early morning
sitting there.
It moved slowly
but so steadily
that it covered a lot of ground
quickly. Or maybe it just seemed
to cover ground quickly
because I didn’t expect it
to get far at its slow pace:
one moment it was imperceptibly
and the next time I looked up
it was at the bottom of the screen
and easing onto the window sill.
It might not be all that welcome
in this community
whose mission it is to grow vegetables.
Snails, which are both male and female—
I mean every snail is—
all produce babies,
and up to six batches a year.
Quickly, they can multiply
and consume many plants.
Though half a block away
from the farm,
it wouldn’t take that much of the day
for this one to find the kale.
But I will not interfere—only observe,
then lose track of it. The last time
I saw it, it had made it to the ground.


It’s a beautiful little creature.
Gastropods. Their number
of named species is second only
to insects, I learn,
and that they have two eyes at the top
of their tentacle and that their sense of smell
is heightened, as they can’t hear.
They have a rough tongue,
called a radula, and tiny teeth
that scrape away at the plants.
They eat dirt too
to take in calcium
and grow their spiral-shaped shells.
And it is that—
that simple, elegant spiral design
right there,
on the back of a little gastropod—
that strikes me this day.
I wonder when it was
that a human first
that natural spiral pattern,
found so many places
in the natural world.
I remember that in all the ways
humans have used that design—
to sell
or explain
it came
from nature,
from places like the back
of a snail.
Sometimes I am slow
to get it.