The Quadrangle Snails

The Quadrangle Snails

The artist traced the movement of snails
to show their slow progress around the quad.
Come morning, a crowd gathered,
stepping between the curves of paint,
not daring to disturb the chalk body outlines
of a thousand, nocturnal molluscs.

A representative from domestic services
was sent to clean up.
A security guard checked a stack of paperwork
for the proper permission form
and the relevant health and safety document.
He proceeded to stand in the artist’s doorway –
a passive/aggressive barrier – too scared
to express his opinion in the presence
of academics.

Tutors looked on and debated the merit of snail lines.
One fought through the crowd and viewed
the work in various positions.
He remembered a painting of a snail:

perfect in every detail –
matt grey flesh, shiny, spiralling shell.
It could have been a photograph.
An explanatory plaque on the wall explained
its virtues and why it had won the award.

He was brought back to the present
by the crowd’s arguments
reaching a zenith; the noise
made him yearn for the quiet gallery, free
from the slow chaos of snails.


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