The weatherman reports rain
to a crew of snail-pickers through an old TV.
They stand on the elevated porch,
holding plastic buckets and torches,
preparing for the long walk.
Behind the houses, on the football field,
blades of grass will soon wet.
The snail-pickers know this.
They walk onward
through the field for snails,
witnessing the vanishing of human voices.
Absolute stillness abounds.
The owl and bats on the succulent stalks,
the rubbish and snails,
within a few meters of a dead mouse.
Now, at the center, they fade
into a singularity: one man and one woman
to a section, torching for the hard,
brown shells. The young beams
reveal the slimy trails.
One snail picked up.
It could take minutes
to find another. Even hours.
They search, reducing their voices.
Attempting to fool the boy in the field,
they retreat into the night, slowly, leaving
him with the task of searching.
The cloudy sky strengthens
the discordant dialects of the frogs
and crickets. A rustle in a thicket.
The sudden realization
he’s alone with nature’s tricks.
In almost harmony with the owl’s screech,
the stems swish again.
Copyright © 2023 by Onyedikachi Chinedu. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 22, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.