for Uncle Kenny and Cousin Jeremy
According to the local news station,
the blue crawfish is a rare thing to find,
yet it watches us from the tank of the market,
spared from a boiled, seasoned death
unlike its red friends. My uncle says joy
is the opposite of running
into a dagger, and I realize I am not
the most poetic family member
who has pain. J and I crack the spines of
the crawfish not lucky enough to be blue.
The deeper the blues, The more I see
black played above my head at the chiropractor
the day before. Stubborn I call my back,
subluxation the medical journal says.
Three times a week, my chiropractor
calls the forceful moving of my misalignment
a healthy crack. Like bullies hemorrhaging
power, we look forward to making me
almost break. I love my family, unlike my back.
Before we got here, J threaded amber and jade
and lapis into a necklace he made for me
to match the cover of the book where I’ve written
my pain. He moves, outside his box, newly freed.
He loves movement, says he understands
that toxic masculinity means to want
to pinch your claws around any smaller crustation.
I am the third most poetic in this family. He loves
the neon of the crawfish. We google what makes it
blue and we suck the sadness out of our conversation.
Like luck, blues can spare any life if you wear
it, but it will leave you as lonely as the crawfish
in the tank. I wonder what family the mudbug
came from. Were they a proud bunch? Had the brightest
shells in their swamp? Did this little blue bug love
his looks, or did he burrow deeper into the mud
because he couldn’t handle the attention his hue
attracted? We chew the back meat of the unlucky things,
stew in the love that surrounds us like a pot with our
spines and heads still attached. Look at what the
brain makes the muscle do: remember.
Joy is the membrane covering us, the tissue that keeps
a family situated around a table when they could
be running from one another. My uncle taps the murky
glass to make the orphaned thing move. He turns to us:
Could you imagine us living like that?
All hard on the outside with an exoskeleton?
No, no I can’t. There’s so much
in us. We’d fall apart.
Copyright © 2022 by Karisma Price. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 11, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.