My Wobbly Bicycle, 173

Posted by on Jun 5, 2019 | 7 comments

I’ve been having a good time going through a file on my computer called “old poems.” The date on this one—thank you to my Mac for this—is 2004. We would have still been in Delaware, close to the Atlantic and the Maryland blue crab, which I miss as much as I miss anything about the east coast. Those lovely shells, steamed in something called “crab bake” that leaves them salty and pinkish. They have to be twisted and pounded and sucked. Even the tiny legs have a touch of meat if you’re willing to fight for it. They spread butcher paper on the table, give you a roll of paper towels, a mallet, a pitcher of beer, and you have at it. God, I can hardly bear to think of  them right now!

Jerry doesn’t like crabs, and one doesn’t eat crabs alone, so we would bring our friend Vic to the crab place in Elkton, Maryland, just 7 miles down the road from us. Vic and I would finish off at least a dozen of the number ones, the big ones. Elkton is (or at least was) rougher over there, across the state line, more down-home, more pickup trucks. It felt right for hammering the dickens out of defenseless dead crustaceans.

There’s so little meat, even after a dozen or so, plus a token cup of coleslaw, plus beer, you wanted ice cream. I wanted ice cream, that is. Desperately, to get the salt out of my mouth.

This poem is not about that. It’s just about crabs, who are both delicious steamed and are in the heavens. And, not incidentally, are my sign.

 

Praise to the Crab

 

Who turns her stalked eyes

in all directions. Who is

her own horoscope.

 

Who therefore knows

the precise hour to shed

herself in May

 

under a full moon.

Who lets the male slip

on her in her brief softness,

 

because this is only half

the story. Who burrows

alone into mud and waits,

 

never considering

any other future. Who

out of the dark brings

 

bright orange eggs,

each drifting and molting

as if her own shell

 

had broken

into a constellation.

Who then gets to live

 

in the sky as well as

on the sand under our feet,

unconcerned with how

 

earnestly we try to blend

heaven and earth with

our scuttling words.

 

I made one small significant change just now. Moved a word. I think the reason this poem didn’t make it into a book is that I was never satisfied with the last stanza. It felt/feels self-conscious. It finishes off the poem with a poem-y flourish. Also I don’t like the title.

I got a soft-shell crab (the young ones) as appetizer at Stella’s recently. It was good, but precious, you know. All fancy. If you hit it with a mallet it would smush to nothing.

 

7 Comments

  1. I love this poem! I think the last four lines were perfect. The whole poem resonated with me but those last lines will remain as a reminder. Thanks!

    • Thanks, Diane. I wonder what would happen if I actually started repairing the old poems? But I seem to be doomed to move ahead, to different things.

  2. This is my sign too, and I was lucky enough to feast on Blue Crab with Old Bay spice, when we spent one summer camping on Chesapeak Bay in Maryland, around 1975. Good memory, thanks for that.

  3. Love the poignancy of the last stanza. Love crabs (but not soft-shelled ones). Ice cream, yes. Or macarons. I do admire your courage Fleda, not just writing, but living through the devastation of your lake place, the hard hard work of caring for those you love. Bless you and all your stars!

  4. Love the poem. I remember that place. Bob and I used to go there with Sally Andersen. Love to you and Jerry.

    • Thanks, Mary Rose. I was trying to think of the name of that place, even tried to look it up, but it may have changed names. There’s a Mick’s, but that wasn’t it. I have not lost hope of seeing you again in this lifetime. Jerry is more able to travel, although quite limited. We are visiting our children, mostly, now. Love to you.

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