How I loved one like you when I was little!—
With his stripes of silver and his small house of his back,
Making a slow journey around the well-curb.
I longed to be like him, and was,
In my way, close cousin
To the dirt, my knees scrubbing
The gravel, my nose wetter than his.

When I slip, just slightly, in the dark,
I know it isn’t a wet leaf,
But you, loose toe from the old life,
The cold slime come into being,
A fat, five-inch appendage
Creeping slowly over the wet grass,
Eating the heart out of my garden.

And you refuse to die decently!—
Flying upward through the knives of my lawnmower
Like pieces of smoked eel or raw oyster,
And I go faster in my rage to get done with it,
Until I’m scraping and scratching at you, on the doormat,
The small dead pieces sticking under an instep;
Or, poisoned, dragging a white skein of spittle over a path—
Beautiful, in its way, like quicksilver—
You shrink to something less,
A rain-drenched fly or spider.

I’m sure I’ve been a toad, one time or another.
With bats, weasels, worms—I rejoice in the kinship.
But as for you, most odious–
Would Blake call you holy?

(Theodore Roethke)

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