Crabbing season is opening on the Southern Oregon Coast. I have this magical memory of driving to Crescent City, CA to go to church on Sunday mornings. Traditional service was early so I had to leave the house by 7 AM to get to church on time. During crabbing season the boats were a string of diamonds on the water from Gold Beach, OR to Crescent City, CA. This poem grew out of the memory.
The diamond lights float on shadowy boats;
a sparkling choker strung upon predawn waters,
from Gold Beach to the hasp of Crescent City.
Sailors grunt with each pot thrown while pot pullers
hiss in an amethyst dawn. The blue steel line plunges
to the edges of eelgrass groves. Leaving buoys
on the swells to mark the crab pot trail.
The Dungeness crab scuttle to the odor
of soaked death. The hairs in their mouths
twitching for the bite, while others rattle
their claws on the steel wire, searching
for their one way entrance to hell.
They swarm the bait, pinching their chelipeds
tearing the meat, oblivious to the tremor in the rope,
foreshadowing the end in battered crates,
and screaming ruby red in a pot of boiling water.
Carnage above the sea dresses with an aluminum crab gauge in hand
and a backhand toss to the holds flooded with crustaceans.
The ocean has become a velvet pall and the seagulls are the bearers,
escorting the ships over angry river bars to land at docks awash
with yellow boots on top the coffin of crabs, tossing twitching
bodies with rubbery fingers, like dead man’s hands, to steel bins
lifted high on a chain to dump and sort. Some to be forklifted to
processing plants and some to restaurants-
where people dine on decapod death.
First published in Cascade Rising Review.