Snails by Liana Cusmano

 Poet name: Liana Cusmano Poem Name: Snails Poem: 		Some facts about the terrestrial pulmonate gastropod mollusk, also known as the snail. Snails can travel at the incredible speed of 45 metres per hour. They like to dine in groups. They only have one lung each. They take cover from the scorching heat of the sun for their safety. They come out in the petrichor, that earthy smell after rain, and they breathe in the oxygen of that scent through their skin. Snails can live up to 25 years. They are all hermaphrodites. 		I’m not thinking about snails when I meet her in a bar on Bishop Street, small and dark and full of poems. She asks me to tell her about myself, I tell her that I’m small and dark and full of poems. We rush and stumble through our first season together at the frantic, languid speed of 45 metres per hour. She accepts that sometimes my chest is full of screaming nails, that sometimes my thoughts are a twisted sponge. I learn that her mind is the unreliable keeper of her troubled consciousness, that her heart is the frantic synthesizer of her soul. We dine in groups, in exuberant parties of two. Afterwards, she strokes my chest even when it’s full of screaming nails. She strokes my chest even when it’s bound like a book I never expected anyone to read. We put our fingertips in one another’s hair, on one another’s spines, we breathe as though we shared a single lung. 		We never leave one another out in the harsh sunlight. That would be like giving away a secret someone confided in you, something sacred you had promised them you would keep. Each of us has heard too many horror stories, too many sad poems, each of us has been looked at one too many times as though they were something someone found on the sole of their shoe. 		Our silhouettes are holding hands in the petrichor on the night we hear a cracking beneath our feet. We crouch down in the dark and see dozens of snails. Snails that have come out onto the sidewalk to breathe after the rain, snails that meet their untimely demise as their shells are crushed beneath the sole of someone’s shoe. You only notice that they’re there after you’ve already stepped on one. 		What is the word for the sound of your own destruction announcing your presence? What does it mean for your existence to be noticed only during your annihilation, for the two to be so tightly intertwined? How many times have we announced our presence and immediately had it challenged in schools, targeted in public bathrooms, destroyed at family dinners? 		We gather every last snail and hide them in the grass before we uncoil ourselves from the sidewalk. Later, we crawl into bed and press ourselves tightly against one another, as though to breathe through one another’s skin, as though maybe by being so tightly intertwined, we can drown out the sound of safe spaces being split asunder beneath our feet. We hope to live at least as long as a snail does. Too often, a snail only says I am here as it dies. In announcing its very existence, it sounds its own death toll, the two are one and the same. How many of us are snails on the sidewalk in the dark? End of Poem.  Credits: Copyright © Liana Cusmano  Liana Cusmano, also known as Luca or BiCurious George, is a writer, poet, filmmaker and spoken word artist. They are the 2018 and 2019 Montreal Slam Champion and runner up in the 2019 Canadian Individual Poetry Slam Championship. A participant in the 2019 Spoken Word Residency Program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Liana has presented their work in English, French and Italian across North America, Europe and Asia. They wrote the short film “La Femme Finale,” screened at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, and wrote and directed the award-winning “Matters of Great Unimportance,” screened at the 2019 Blue Metropolis Literary Festival. They also took part in spoken word poetry tour “I See You,” alongside poet laureate of Edmonton Nisha Patel in the fall of 2019. With work that touches on heritage, queerness, relationships and mental health, their aim is to help others feel both seen and safe. Liana is currently the President of the Green Party of Canada. Their first novel, Catch & Release, will be published by Guernica Editions.