I wanted to salt them away,
but couldn’t stomach orange meltdown:
thought I’d cope with poison,
their death in agony under the joists.
And yet …
there was that evening when I switched a light
on three of them, heads down at a saucepan
chummy as rootling hogs. By morning
only a glisten on the worktop
a memory of three grey bodies
hooked over a rim like stubby fingers.
there were three babies, thin as matchsticks,
not one as long as my little fingernail,
trekking the grownups’ trail in the lee of cupboards
even they couldn’t squeeze into; distracted
from food-quest by a poking paw
(what if the cat became furless and sticky?)
they curled up like kittens. I carried them
into the garden, close to the sorrel they love.
And then …
there were the two I kept in a jar –
lid tight shut, but air enough
though I was vowing pellets next time –
shook out next day behind the dustbins
where they lay still as peelings. I waited.
First one and then the other tendered
a cautious eye-stalk to the light,
muscled its way to shade, the breeze
shuffling a strip of white rag between us.
Negotiating slugs by A C Clarke won third prize in the Sentinel Literary Quarterly Poetry Competition (November 2017) judged by Abegail Morley