Elizabeth Bishop

(8 February 1911 – 6 October 1979 / Worcester, Massachusetts)

Strayed Crab


This is not my home. How did I get so far from water? It must
be over that way somewhere.
I am the color of wine, of tinta. The inside of my powerful
right claw is saffron-yellow. See, I see it now; I wave it like a
flag. I am dapper and elegant; I move with great precision,
cleverly managing all my smaller yellow claws. I believe in the
oblique, the indirect approach, and I keep my feelings to myself.
But on this strange, smooth surface I am making too much
noise. I wasn't meant for this. If I maneuver a bit and keep a
sharp lookout, I shall find my pool again. Watch out for my right
claw, all passersby! This place is too hard. The rain has stopped,
and it is damp, but still not wet enough to please me.
My eyes are good, though small; my shell is tough and tight.
In my own pool are many small gray fish. I see right through
them. Only their large eyes are opaque, and twitch at me. They
are hard to catch but I, I catch them quickly in my arms and
eat them up.
What is that big soft monster, like a yellow cloud, stifling
and warm? What is it doing? It pats my back. Out, claw. There,
I have frightened it away. It's sitting down, pretending nothing's
happened. I'll skirt it. It's still pretending not to see me. Out of
my way, O monster. I own a pool, all the little fish that swim in it,
and all the skittering waterbugs that smell like rotten apples.
Cheer up, O grievous snail. I tap your shell, encouragingly,
not that you will ever know about it.
And I want nothing to do with you, either, sulking toad.
Imagine, at least four times my size and yet so vulnerable... I
could open your belly with my claw. You glare and bulge, a
watchdog near my pool; you make a loud and hollow noise. I
do not care for such stupidity. I admire compression, lightness,
and agility, all rare in this loose world.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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