Slugs Make Me Shiver
by bJudy Teresa
Judy Teresa is a retired special education teacher who has taught all age levels. She’s currently writing a memoir called “The Cathedral of Learning” which is a critique of her educational experiences in and out of universities. Judy received a walk award in Whatcom County’s 2014 Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest for her poem “The Morning After.”
A distorted brown slug lay on our patio this morning.
Streaks of dried silver slime
form an irregular trail across the concrete.
I watch for any signs of movement as I make breakfast.
Yesterday I would have wished him dead
Slugs are, after all, loathsome creatures.
Their slime is so sticky and obnoxious it can only
be removed from human skin with baby wipes.
But last evening after reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s
“The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History”
I was persuaded that all creatures are needed.
So, I think: What can I do to help the slug survive?
Did he run out of the slime that makes him mobile?
How can I grease the skids of the sluggish slug
so he can move to the ground nearby?
I try pouring tepid water over him and notice
he has a certain beauty. He isn’t all one shade.
He has a rectangle on his back with dots of beige
like something a scrapbooker would cut and paste on.
Desperately seeking the redeeming virtues of slugs
I ask my husband, “Slugs aerate the soil, don’t they?”
Never disagreeable, he replies, “I guess.”
but doesn’t sound convinced.
When I ask a friend the same question, he says,
“I think you’re mixing slugs and earthworms.
You’d better consult Google.” So I ask Google
“What are the ecological benefits of slugs?”
Google channels Lexa Lee who tells me
more about slugs than I ever wanted to know,
such as what the European black slug Arion ater
eats and where it lays its eggs. Ugh!
Lexa also offers the following:
slugs provide protein for birds and mammals,
consume the scatter of dead leaves and animals,
and spread the seeds found in vegetation and dung.
Unlike earthworms who are aerators,
slugs are decomposers. Slugs enrich
the soil by releasing nutrients.
Maybe I just needed to take the time
to get to know slugs better
before I could love them.
By noon the slug hasn’t moved.
He’s a slug-a-bed who’s likely dead.
All I can do is to give him a proper burial.
I hope he hasn’t left a grieving family behind.
But wait! I don’t want to deprive some bird
or mammal of a high protein meal, and I do
hope the slug has a family, grieving or not,
so his species will continue in perpetuity.
I’ll just sit back and let nature take its course.