Diamond Dungeness

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.

Diamond Dungeness


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.


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