“There is no moment when you are not one thing or another.”
– Anne Carson
What do oysters care about sex? about making love?
Bivalves buried in mud know only the dark,
that eternal, immeasurable experience contained
in salty fluid, in rubbery flesh, within a shell.
The slide, slip, viscous shift of slimy purpose
from male to female and back again
is a moment, an invisible event under water,
a habit of the species, alien to man
and thus more a pearl than the pearl itself.
The luster of biology is strictly kept,
a secret in the dark, below consciousness.
Does the oyster know itself as an oyster?
Look, you cannot know who you are – ever.
When you insert the keys into the ignition
and your heart pumps hard because you yelled
at your wife, “What the hell do you know
about it?” you do not know who you are.
Your anger slides down your throat like the oysters
you gulped at the cocktail party with the martini thought
that maybe tonight, just maybe, you can love your wife
all night as if you ever did that, as if
you ever knew yourself from one moment
to the next, as if you could explain the mystery
of who you are, even though at this minute,
in this prolonged angry moment your blood
understands nothing, not your wife or what she said
to you, the clueless one, numb to your own needs
and numb to the needs of a woman who loves you.