The Blue Slug
by James Sutherland-Smith
A blue slug, the colour of biro ink,
makes its way down the side of a rotting log
and slides past the fire I’ve cultivated.
Is this the month that slugs and snails change sex,
this blue a final blue of indecision?
I don’t inhabit the kingdom of the slug
and am, alas, only and forever male
with worse indecisions all of my own.
The sun is setting without hesitation.
So colour and temperature reverse.
Will the White Admiral, mostly brown,
that seems to think my cabin belongs to him
and sips sweat from the bald patch on my head,
now expand and reappear as an angel,
a lord of light with a flaming sword
saying, “Welcome home, Son of Adam?”
Will the blue slug inflate into a devil,
scarlet now with twitching horns and grinning,
“Your last sin, thinking a slug is just a slug.”
The stream beside my cabin has turned dark
glistening like old Kodak negative.
The girl in the moon floats up above the pines,
a celebrity simply passing through
an occasion too trifling to stay long.
Indeed nothing happens. The White Admiral
has folded up its wings fidgeting to stillness
imitating a leaf. The blue slug
has, no doubt, inched across the slick dew
to feed on burdock or angelica.
A warmth at midnight sidles through the trees
and so I leave the cabin door ajar
to watch the fire I made dwindle, then wink out.
PHOTO: Blue slug, Slovakia (2009) by James Sutherland-Smith.
NOTE: Bielzia coerulans, commonly known as the Carpathian blue slug or simply the blue slug, is a species of very large land slug. Slug is a common name for any apparently shell-less terrestrial gastropod mollusk. Slugs are hermaphrodites, having both female and male reproductive organs.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My cabin and Bielzia(bub) coerulans are in the forest near Zlata Bana (Gold mine) near Presov, Slovakia.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Sutherland-Smith was born in Scotland in 1948, and now lives in Slovakia. He has published seven collections of his own poetry, the most recent is The River and the Black Cat published by Shearsman Books (2018). He has translated a number of Slovak poets, publishing three individual selections in Britain, two in Canada, and one in the United States, and three Serbian poets with two selections from Miodrag Pavlovic and Ivana Milankov in Britain. His translation of poetry has been awarded the Slovak Hviezdoslav Prize and the Serbian Zlatko Krasni Prize. His most recent translation is from the poetry of Mila Haugová, Eternal Traffic, published in Britain by Arc Publications.