Sunday Poem


There’s a man who cares
for the last snail of its kind,

Achatinella apexfulva, knows precisely
how much moisture, shade and light

it needs to thrive while it spends
its dwindling time in a glass cabinet.

Don’t think about what you can start,
think about what you can end was the advice

I heard on a time management podcast
while slicing bananas

for my daughter’s breakfast.
The banana comes from Guatemala

where its kind is plagued
by the Fusarium fungus to a possible

almost certain if-it-continues
at-this-rate extinction.

I’ve never been to Guatemala,
seen a rotting banana plant, or touched

a snail’s glossy shell of the kind
that resembles the palette

of a chocolate box— dark brown, chestnut,
white, the occasional splash of mint.

I watch my daughter collect stones
in her plastic bucket, clinking them beside her

as she runs smiling from one corner
of our yard to another — impossible to say

if this July is the warmest month
since the last warmest month,

until it is. My dread, a garden
crawling with invasive insects.

Later, she smashes bananas at the table
between her dirt-crusted fingernails,

laughs at the stickiness while I try to finish
the article I started days ago

about Achatinella apexfulva,
whose largest threat is

(you might’ve guessed) another snail,
Euglandina rosea, aptly named

for its rosy-hued carapace, who will follow
the slimy trail of its gastropod cousin

then yank it from its shell with its serrated tongue
and swallow it like Cronus, shell and all.

When a species is the last of its kind,
it’s called an endling, a word

that reminds me of changeling,
such a fairy-swapped child

I’ve called my own. I’ve made
this place for her: warm, soft,

a place that someday I’ll not
be allowed to enter,

that may not even survive me.

by Sara Burnett
from Pank Magazine