At Shaw’s Market the lobster tank sits
to the right of the fish counter, just left of
the freezer with the fish sticks and frozen perch.
Therein lie the lobsters, stacked like so many traps,
brackish and silent, their pincers rendered
useless, wrapped in yellow plastic. Scuttled
into these briny and light-dulled shallows, they
hulk like the wrecks of some forgotten sea floor.
One evening, uneasy, I went home to read
what I could: phylum, arthropoda – cousins
to trilobites, crabs, insects, spiders. I studied
the neurobiology, learning lobsters have hundreds
of eyes but do not see, not exactly, and I thought
of one I judged somnolent flinching his taped
pincers at my reflection looming like an eclipse,
my domesticated glimpse into the deep, what terror
he must have felt coupled with an absence of sediment
that must have felt like, well, nothing. Six hundred
million years, I thought of him there, sedated,
stunned by the salt light. The next day I returned
intending to purchase several and set them free;
failing, I drove by myself to the beach where I stared
at the sea. Lobsters once ruled the seas,
the armored carapace inviolable, feeding
on anything that might be. Lords of the Cambrian
prehistory, they crawled out of time and into
the late Quaternary, which is to say, us, left
to rule the world as we must. What thief waits
for me, I can’t help but think, as I leave the store
with my groceries, feel my way through the lot
looking for my lost sedan, crawling with unease
through the summer dark and soft salt-breeze?
Lobster first appeared in Bowdoin magazine, Winter 2003.