Hawaiian tree snail (Oahu)
Achatinella apexfulva may be the loneliest snail on the planet.
Once abundant, once plunging, once colorful rings
once collapsing, once greed, once spectacular blunder.
Once upon a time a scientist, one John Thomas Gulick
gathered 44,000 specimens of you.
Once invasive, once habitat, once climate, once people.
Once 1000 years ago Polynesian settlers
brought their rats to Hawaii.
Once 100 years ago European settlers brought theirs.
Once upon a time rats feasted upon snails.
Once predatory snails from Florida came to devour
Once Jackson’s chameleon grew bored and ate invertebrates
Once industrial poison cleaned up Hawaii’s hissing lawns
When the tree snails sing
the voice of the forest echoes
deep in the mouths of Mauna Loa.
You, snail, your cutaceous earth and tired heart
I sing to you launching out from your dim fortress
You’re not hiding under the heavy sea
nor searching for the vague calamity of
Beneath your tsunami
of brindled trash you wait for the wood to rot
around you, the thin paper of your home to tear
away, the savory moss of your glittering moonlight
to spread over the sharp stones in your path simply
so you can keep going.
In Hawaiian it is still a compliment
to say that someone sings like a snail.