Self-Portrait as Land Snail

Don’t get me wrong.
I’m a modest girl, couldn’t even strip off
at one of those nudie hot springs out west,
the whole place a flotsam
of much-nursed areolas and buoyant
scrotums while I sat prim
as Gidget, legs crossed and awkwardly
smiling on the shore. It’s just that the snail
is on to something—neither boy nor girl
but both, the critter is nearly mythic—a true
hermaphrodite that all alone
will go to its own kind of cyrobank and baste
itself, make a new batch of not-so-bouncies
in thin, flea-sized shells. But no, that’s not
me. That seems lonely. Better, with another
intersex other it will take
aim, flex back its bow, shoot a dart,
then wait to be impaled
in return. I couldn’t make this shit up
if I tried—this is no metaphor
but scientific fact—a telum amoris—literally,
a weapon of love—a James-Bond-worthy arrow
equipped with four blades spiked
with all the dirty talk a snail could want.
Cupid’s got nothing on this
mollusk congress, and because you know
how snails go, the foreplay is slow—
slow, slow, slow—my kind of sex—
going on and on until the hussy
who first received that dart has enough
then rises to fire back. Now, knowing this,
I can say I didn’t come out
all those years ago, whatever that means. No,
when I finally made a home
for my body in the bed of another
woman, I simply became
a land snail. Tired of being
a leaking receptacle for a man’s desire,
I needed to feel
an equal’s push against my own,
a willingness to be wounded and to
wound, receiving and giving at the same
time. Plainly said, I needed the kind of love
that finally let me take
my time; I needed to fire
an arrow of my damn own.


From To Those Who Were Our First Gods (Rattle, 2018) by Nickole Brown. Used with permission of the author.