King of Crabs
The editors of America are pleased to present the winner of the 2015 Foley Poetry Award, given in honor of William T. Foley, M.D.
Water leaped here not long since.
Then earth belched up a ridge,
and here we cluster, crabs all, cleaving
to this land, this unfinished work. Why?
For water will lap again, the deep
that is not kind to crabs, we who live
in a thin, flat country, we who love
to be taxed in the arts of scuttle
and tunnel, and in the cleansing of the Bay,
And after the mad day
of dance and war, what crab can forget
those nights so soothing that the sea itself
bedded down; the moon rose, a chitin disc,
and in the glow, crabs pulsed along the shore,
the only wave.
But still you ask:
Why live where land falls away, cedes
to water the heights, whether crest of hill
or skull of dune? I answer that each crab
sifts the sea within himself, is called
to salt-work, the dark twisting of inward
oceans, like kelp whips miles-long,
into a muscled braid, the work of years.
Crabs, friends, I raise and wave my one
enormous claw, my molt work,
my burden, and my clacking joy.
Elizabeth Grace Matthew
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