Crayfish

 

This old veteran

Of amphibious operations

 

Is holding his trench

At the beachhead,

 

Bunkered under

Some driftwood wreckage—

 

In this war

To end all wars

 

He is always behind

Enemy lines,

 

The crayfish.

 

Archest of conservatives

 

This survivalist

Sweating in plated armor,

 

Who also in Eden

Was steeled for Armageddon,

 

Whose handshake is so impressive,

 

Whose welcoming embrace

Will not be forgotten.

 

Still, if you’re half as quick

As you were as a boy

 

You can snatch him from his lair

Without getting pinched,

 

And after all these years!—

 

He is still so perfectly appalled

To meet you.

 

You of the Radical Left,

 

You on the lunatic fringe,

 

With your gratuitous nudity

And elitist backbone

And reckless crusade onto land.

 

But consider all the genes you share—

 

You could trade protein kinases

Like baseball cards!

 

Truly, between thumb and forefinger

You restrain a brother in arms.

 

So you look to refute

The prevailing sense of otherness:

 

The flailing pincers

And quaintly armored legs;

 

The stalked eyes

Moist with fanatic rage;

 

A sweetly unheard battle cry

Bubbling from the mouthparts—

 

You look in vain.

 

Who is more successfully dressed

For the occasion of total war?—

 

And he regrows whatever

Is severed in the fray.

 

He’s not in your hands

He’s on your hands

 

This POW who will never break—

 

Even over a pot of boiling water

And all of the fixings for gumbo.

 

**

 

And yet he was once

The avant-garde—

 

The lobster’s radical spearhead

Into freshwater.

 

Oh, the war stories

You ought to pry out of him

 

Before returning him

 To the lake,

 

Where with lightning flips of his tail

He reverses into the weed cover,

 

Dragging along the pincers

That demand to stay and fight.

 

“Until we meet again.”

 

Yes, in his element,

 

On the mother of all retreats

From terra firma.

 

Until that lavish feast

His livelihood is secure,

 

Whatever the New Economy:

 

Scavenging the dead and decaying

Will never be outsourced.

 

**

 

An eerie cessation

Of hostilities.

 

The crayfish emerges

From his watery cave.

 

On his delicate walking legs

He explores the sand bottom,

 

His swimmerets aflutter,

 

His antenna stroking the marvels

With affectionate disbelief.

 

How gallantly he tap-dances

Across the lake floor!

 

The Fred Astaire

Of the Gotterdammerung!

 

As his pincers conduct

The violin concerto

That is breaking his heart.

 

True, soon he’ll bequeath

His trusted suit of bronze

To the hallowed gullet

Of a bass or snapping turtle.

 

Till then he’ll fight on,

This one-arthropod army.

 

His casus belli:

 

He loves his life.

 

He never wants it to end.