Gastropod Ghazal

Ivan Ewyas

What is man, that thou art mindful of him

    and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels

    and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Thou madest him to have domain over the works of thy hands;

    thou hast put all things under his feet...(Psalm 8:4–6)

...for dust thou art, and to dust shalt thou return.(Genesis 3:19)


Gastropods arise!

Winkles from the wrinkled sea

Under nimbus–clouded skies

Looking down from Winchelsea.


Carnivorous whelks singsing bring

Tonic solfa diphthong song

Make the vaulted welkin ring

Glissando Götterdämmerung.


From Atlantic sundering sea,

From Al Hambra Moorish Spain

Join us at our jamboree

Volk’wanderung down Slugwash Lane*.


Gastropods arise!

Spifflicate vain–glorious homo rapiens,

Numerous as dung–hill flies.

Circumvent their lions’ dens,

Their stagnant beer in sunken vats.

Tunnel under chimney–soot,

Or, as pogo–vorsprung acrobats,

Flip to a tender tendril shoot

Of red–bud bean or clematis –

Cosmic–slime by moonlight ooze,

Issue of sussurated bliss –

By pulsing emerald glow–worm’s glow

Elastoplastic muscled cruise

Nine bean rows. (Y9? Ask Mr. Yeats, he might know.)

Beware caltropic leaves of holly;

Egg–shells camouflaged loblolly;

Pellets, grape–shot on the soil,

You’d think they’d fallen off a lorry,

Enough to make your gonads boil.


Beware the wellingtonian stamp,

The weekend–caver’s Petzl light;

The hissing of a Tilly lamp;

The kiss of shears at dead of night.

The rachet click of forceps’ jaws

The rat–tat–tat on a rusty tin,

The mouldy mucous rimed within,

The sudden pin–drop, cross–hairs pause,

Drawn breath, lips Cameronian thin,


A snaffled dribble down the chin,

Portending ichor–draining death –

Disembowelling scissor–cut,

Tally tot–up under breath

Of dasypygal cullion mutt.


Arions arise!

Gangoolians of the podghast night:

Gleet, gleam,guggle, gong, gormandise.

Put man’s Flower Show dreams to flight.

Marmalise their brassicas; rasp at ease

Their raspberries. Be predators on their taters.

Gnash those golden delicious of Hesperides.

As graters, macerators, breed alligators.

Beer–batter their hearts like bars of Mars.

Virus their blogs ‘gin slugs, E–mails ‘gin snails.

Be of Shiva the Destroyer multifarious avatars.

Hieronymus Bosch their nosh in cuckoo–spitten pails;

Go genital into that dark night in Wales.


Yea, most of all, appal Hugh Fearnley–Whittingstall

With wormwood and the gall, for getting his tith

Into our kin and kith, ill–willy him, yea, the reptile in us all

To deform and kill the things from which we suck the death.


Not for oozaceous mollusca, “To be, or not to be?”

Unshrived, denied abluvion’s eschatological fleme –

Rendered down to a ghee in a Chilean snailery

Encarnadined for human kind into namby pamby cream.


Escargos arise!

Apple snails Helicidae

Chassez down Les Champs Elysées;

Banshee La Marseillaise;

Kerfluffle soufflerie

Liberté! Egalité! Fraternité!

Escapees escargotiére.


Gastronomes they gorge on us.

Marinate them in a jacusi:

Mince Giselle, Jean–Jaque, juicy,

Vol–au–vent in puff–pastry.

Bloop them with a guzunderbuss –

To arms! Storm La Bastille!


Prick up your ears! All over France

Boiling conch–pots Le Creuset

Rockle in a cockle dance –

Our disgorging souciance;

Stuffed, sauced, baptised in vin brûlé.

(Jean Baptiste for Salomé.)


To arms helicids!

Sapiens think they’ve got it made.

Be as Rodrigo brave El Cids

Making human kind afraid.

(Anthem that anathema Rouget de Lisle.)


Circumcise the foreskins of Man’s Identity

Their stiff necks are an abomination unto me.

(Look it up in Deuteronomy)


Cockles gourgandine arise!

Oar your Botticelli shells:

Delphic cleft of Venus’ thighs,

Oyster–juiced engorging swells.


Sea–seize me in your columella,

Aeon–amoured whorls of bliss

Unceasing tantric tarantella,

Urania’s sea–foamed genesis.


500 million years you’ve been,

Before the Saps were ever seen:

Now the world reverberates

Sapped by high–muck–amuck vertebrates.


Hanging on a mucous–skein

Love–darting torquemain

Riding on a dew–train

Mollusca germinal germain

The old are young again

Getting it up in Slugwash Lane.


A bird has whispered, “Come again,

It’s iron–smelters Tubal–cain

Who gave the name to Slugwash Lane,

Founding canons for the Main

Plundering the ships of Spain.”


So, is my tale all in vain,

Kindled McGonagall murrain –

Think you, “Hieronymo’s mad againe?”


Gastropods predate King Iron’s reign:

In witness still their trails remain

Reflections of the Milky Way down Slugwash Lane.


*Slugwash Lane is authentic: it lies north off North Common Road at Wivelsfield Green, East Sussex.