David Cappella

The Oyster

“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.