Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Hermit Crab - April 8, 2010

Once I looked inside

the darkness

of a shell folded like a pastry,

and there was a fancy face...

When I set it down, it hurried

along the tide line

of the sea,

which was slashing along as usual,

shouting and hissing

toward the future,

turning its back

with every tide on the past,

leaving the shore littered

every morning

with more ornaments of death-

what pearly rubble

from which to choose a house

like a white flower-

and what a rebellion

to leap into it

and hold on,

connecting everything,

the past to the future-

which is of course the miracle-

which is the only argument there is

against the sea.

In a Monty Python skit, there is an "Argument Clinic." The paying customer keeps saying "I came here for an argument," and the clerk says "No you didn't!" The tide comes in bringing life and bringing death. We can argue with this, but did we come into this life for an argument? I think maybe we did, thought it's not about life and death. It's about whether there is a sea at all, a sea that is separate from ourselves. The miracles comes when I see the word as rubble of the pearly gates, no heaven, no hell, no life, no death. Me, the crab incarnate with the earth as my only home.

Where do you find home?


  1. From T: First, I am getting back after a hiatus, posting (fyi, answered LK's April 7 comment.)

    I am having trouble with this poem..the metaphor keeps changing around for me, and I can't follow her. Is it connection that is "the only argument there is against the sea"? We grab a piece of death, make a home in it, and hang on?
    If I look for a place to identify in the poem, I identify with the sea. The Spring has brought to me an irritability, a need to cast things away, (see "Skunk Cabbage") which feels like the personality of the sea in the poem.
    There is a tension between casting away the things that are no longer of use (from the past?) and hanging on to things. I am feeling this daily right now in cleaning out my garage, where I am behaving more like Kali the Destroyer than anything else. I have to force myself to keep, and the drive is to throw away with both hands.

    But then you ask, "Where do you find home?" My home is a lake cabin I visited first when I was two. It no longer exists. I have lived in my current house for 10 years without making it home. Sometimes I think I am past the developmental stage where some people can bond to place. On other days, I think the house may just be a bad fit for me. But what about the whole idea that it is bad to move many elderly people, because they can only function in their homes? All the head memory has drifted into the hands and feet. I had a little of that when I moved at age 52 - my body went in the same patterns it learned in the old house, and I was disoriented. So is home and the past in our brain and body, and not external at all? Is this how home - the location where we live - connects past and future? Plus, what about memory always reconstituting itself, morphing into a different past? It's a lot to chew on.

  2. My home is the earth. The house I live in is as close to earth as possible. I am surrounded by trees, some of which are probably older than I. It feels much more like home than the house I lived in for thirty-five years that was in a clean subdivision with man-planted trees. I can dig a hole, put something in it and it will grow. I can scoop up a handful of dirt and smell the little organisms and the soil which someday will be me. I can feel it as I let is sift through my fingers with that nice moist texture. I do not wear gloves. That would ruin the whole experience. When the dirt with the organisms gets under your nails and cuticles the good smell can last a couple days even though washing makes the hands look clean. I can sleep in my bed pretending I am on the ground by sniffing my fingers.

    This house has a magical way of relaxing people. Anyone who visits would like to stay. The children are also drawn to this home. When playing outside the favorite place to hide is in my little woods. They can lay down on their tummies in the scrub and not be seen. Guess what smell they are going to connect with? If they can't think of anything to do my picnic table is their hang out spot. I am nurtured by the earth and children as I try to nurture them. I am home.

  3. What is the theme to this poem?