Laura McCullough

After Mark Doty’s “The Green Crab’s Shell”

Splendor and splendor
he said
about the crab’s cast off carapace,
artifact of a life,
a life like his
the man
the inside of his own skin
metaphor and metaphor
like fish aimed at the same source;
cows shuttled toward the same slaughter,
different each time;
or the dimpled scar of a pic line,
the nipped belly smile
of a surgical birth;
maybe the line over a brow
of a child a mother
was too tired to take
to the ER for stitches.
Oh walker on the beach,
Oh kneeler before small evidence,
your face close to death
showing us all
what reflects in his face
reflects us all.
where was he when those birds descended?
And was the crab already dying?
Surely beached and dying
like the man
suffering at the shoreline
of his own life and those he loves
the tide the only proof
any of us exist
except for these artifacts
of mind, broken
and revealing
only the smallest glimmer
of how we shone.
if we were lucky enough
to attract danger
and be lifted by some awful bird—
and admit it, we are all scavengers—
to the sky we always craved
and couldn’t have, then
to be crushed or to crash
as the bird will also be,
a wing without its body
feathers riffling
the old whispered song,
a lost dog noses it, takes it
carries it only so far; the dog
wants a man; the man wants
a dog; no one wants crabs or gulls,
exquisite irreducible
watch the dog chase the waves back out,
the man step back as it comes in.