Slug Guts, or Entosthia Gymnosalianga

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2013
From the collection Growing Up Too Fast

A boy spread strawberry jam on his toast, his father watched
and they stood a minute.
How come strawberries taste wet and bitter, he asked,
but jam is good and sticky?

The father looked over the tinged brown glasses he kept
from another century.
Because strawberry jam, he brass-rasped, nearly wept,
is raw slug slurry.

The stuff of ground, slain slugs is just too delicious,
so we call it squashed berries.
We grown-ups say it’s jam, tar our lives complicit
in sweet, shared atrocity.

Slugs’ organs are too tasty not to eat, the boy heard
and stale nose-breath eased onto him.
Strawberry jam is a clever word, lad. An old word.
A good word. A euphemism.

The father’s rusty eyes, round, brown, rested
and the boy glanced about.
His fingers stuck to the jar’s surface
where the juice had gotten out.

His flecked red tongue firmed in his mouth, clinging
at stained teeth like a prisoner.
The residue in his throat sucked, unreasoning,
begging for slime and moisture.

The father said, they bury the skins in the mud. His eyes
seemed heavy on his skull.
Each speck is scraped from flesh, slid off knives
’til the jam men’s pits are full.

The father’s iron, scratched hands scooped the toast
and the jaws did their lifework.
There are always good words, groaned his hard throat
with pip cracks and red slurps.

The boy reeled, reading ingredients, his father fed
and they stood a minute.
There were clever words in the kitchen and there was bread.
The jam was good and sticky.

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