Summers on Long Island where I grew up, meant the beach, with all it’s heat and salt and critters. We could go to the ocean side and be batted around by the waves or over to the more peaceful bay, where we could swim a straight line, dig for clams and have our toes tweaked by scuttling crabs. This beautiful poem by Marc Doty conjures up those summer days and at the same time goes so much deeper. Enjoy!
A Green Crab’s Shell (1953)
Not, exactly, green: closer to bronze preserved in kind brine, something retrieved from a Greco-Roman wreck, patinated and oddly muscular. We cannot know what his fantastic legs were like— though evidence suggests eight complexly folded scuttling works of armament, crowned by the foreclaws’ gesture of menace and power. A gull’s gobbled the center, leaving this chamber —size of a demitasse— open to reveal a shocking, Giotto blue. Though it smells of seaweed and ruin, this little traveling case comes with such lavish lining! Imagine breathing surrounded by the brilliant rinse of summer’s firmament. What color is the underside of skin? Not so bad, to die, if we could be opened into this— if the smallest chambers of ourselves, similarly, revealed some sky.
From Atlantis, published by HarperCollins. Copyright © 1995 by Mark Doty. All rights reserved.