This poem appears in the current issue of The Common.
Came a homeless man, without a foot,
dressed up in a new canvas sack,
tied up with a belt in the usual style,
and an Alfalfa tower of hair (all in soot)
with lint in the vertical layers.
He was walking down Fifth
and he put down his bags
by the church of St. Thomas Divine,
and he stopped and he stood
and he stooped from the stairs,
and recited the following prayer:
I’m a mollusk, he said, no, not always purblind,
with a very small heart and a brain,
with a siphon to breathe and some jelly to float
and a useful, for swimming fast, foot.
I used to have teeth but do not any more.
There are 10 to the 5 types of me, (2)
and our shells and our cores are about the same shape,
though our shells are what you’d want to see.(3)
I lay millions of eggs; they swim freely, unseen,
and then sink all alone in the sea. (4)
1. From Gr. phylon, “race, stock,” related to phyle, “tribe, clan,” and phylein,
2. There are nearly one hundred thousand known types of mollusks, including snails,
slugs, clams and other bivalves, squids, and octopi. The colossal squid, at up to 33 feet long, is one of the largest invertebrates.
3. At this point in the story, two investment bankers from the crowd rushed to Cartier
to buy the homeless mollusk a diamond hair pick; some bystanders from the Sorbonne
rubbed organic avocado lotion on his foot; and a girl in a dress from Henri Bendel
arm-wrestled a punky paralegal to see who would take him home.
4. This happened, or will.
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