Monday, November 26, 2007

“For a Five-Year-Old,” by Fleur Adcock

p. 93

A snail is climbing up the window-sill
into your room, after a night of rain.
You call me in to see, and I explain
that it would be unkind to leave it there:
It might crawl to the floor; we must take care
that no one squashes it. You understand,
and carry it outside, with careful had,
to eat a daffodil.

I see, then, that a kind of faith prevails:
your gentleness is moulded still by words
from me, who have trapped mice and shot wild birds,
from me, who drowned your kittens, who betrayed
four closest relatives, and who purveyed
the harshest kind of truth to may another.
But that is how things are: I am your mother,
and we are kind to snails.

I like the gentle order — partly set by the unobtrusive rhyme — that lies behind this poem. That despite us and our failures, we can still point towards kindness. I laugh, too, because despite our best efforts and successes the snail still goes out and eats a daffodil — how kind is that?

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