Chrysomallon squamiferum

Image of Long Story Short Award - 2022
Image of Poetry
means golden-haired and scale-bearing,
and when I saw your name I thought,
you could be both the princess and the dragon,
captive of the tower
and fire-breathing stuff of nightmares.
Pretty impressive, for a sea snail.
A little funny-looking
but made of heart and iron,
from the inside out.
Instead of a tower, you bury your body
in the forges ocean-deep, where the earth's
red-hot blood slips
between the cracks like a wound.

By volume, four percent of you is heart,
compared to the human one point three.
If snails could fall in love, you'd probably
be awfully good at it, probably better
than we are. Must be nice, to turn your skin
into such a fortress. Much safer
than the soft, fleshy shells we're stuck with.

How do you breathe,
and when you breathe, does it feel like fire,
pressed against your body
so long it's become you,
or you've become it.
No easy matter,
to live in a place that burns
from the inside.

Consider this: on the ocean floor,
princess and dragon become one legend,
welding all that anger
to withstand every burning thing
the earth pours at them.

Everybody wonders
how you absorb the pressure of that heat,
how you make yourself a shield.
They'd take you to war, if they could.
But I know: all you ever wanted
was to protect the heart.