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Giant Snail Analysis

Author: poem of Elizabeth Bishop Type: poem Views: 10

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    The rain has stopped. The waterfall will roar like that all

night. I have come out to take a walk and feed. My body--foot,

that is--is wet and cold and covered with sharp gravel. It is

white, the size of a dinner plate. I have set myself a goal, a

certain rock, but it may well be dawn before I get there.

Although I move ghostlike and my floating edges barely graze

the ground, I am heavy, heavy, heavy. My white muscles are

already tired. I give the impression of mysterious ease, but it is

only with the greatest effort of my will that I can rise above the

smallest stones and sticks. And I must not let myself be dis-

tracted by those rough spears of grass. Don't touch them. Draw

back. Withdrawal is always best.

    The rain has stopped. The waterfall makes such a noise! (And

what if I fall over it?) The mountains of black rock give off such

clouds of steam! Shiny streamers are hanging down their sides.

When this occurs, we have a saying that the Snail Gods have

come down in haste. I could never descend such steep escarp-

ments, much less dream of climbing them.

    That toad was too big, too, like me. His eyes beseeched my

love. Our proportions horrify our neighbors.

    Rest a minute; relax. Flattened to the ground, my body is like

a pallid, decomposing leaf. What's that tapping on my shell?

Nothing. Let's go on.

    My sides move in rhythmic waves, just off the ground, from

front to back, the wake of a ship, wax-white water, or a slowly

melting floe. I am cold, cold, cold as ice. My blind, white bull's

head was a Cretan scare-head; degenerate, my four horns that

can't attack. The sides of my mouth are now my hands. They

press the earth and suck it hard. Ah, but I know my shell is

beautiful, and high, and glazed, and shining. I know it well,

although I have not seen it. Its curled white lip is of the finest

enamel. Inside, it is as smooth as silk, and I, I fill it to perfection.

    My wide wake shines, now it is growing dark. I leave a lovely

opalescent ribbon: I know this.

    But O! I am too big. I feel it. Pity me.

    If and when I reach the rock, I shall go into a certain crack

there for the night. The waterfall below will vibrate through

my shell and body all night long. In that steady pulsing I can

rest. All night I shall be like a sleeping ear.


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