Castnet Seafood

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.

Related Poems

How to Make a Crab Cake

Start with your own body,
the small bones of the hands
moving toward the inlets of the fingers.

Wanting it too much invites haste.
You must love what is raw
and hungered for.

Think of the crab cake as the ending,
as you till away at the meat, digging for
errant shells and jagged edges.

Always, it’s a matter of guesswork
but you hold it together
by the simplest of ingredients,

for this is how the body learns to be generous,
to forgive the flaws inherited
and enjoy what lies ahead.

Yet you never quite know
when it happens,
the moment when the lumps

transcend egg and breadcrumbs,
the quiver of oil in a hot pan,
to become unworldly:

the manifold of pleasure
with the sweet ache of crab
still bright on your tongue.

Dear Birmingham

I’ve been visiting again
the cemetery
with a sunken southern corner.

Fish smaller than first teeth, birthed from the soil,
maneuver in the glaze
where rain pools, covering the lowest stones.

            Behind him, in a cracked white tub,
my knees to his sides,
left ear pressed to
the stack of bones in his neck,

I was once so terrified of my own contentment
I bit my shoulder
and drew blood there

                        to the surface—past it—

What I have wanted most
is many lives. One for each longing,
round and separate.

Sometimes I bring figs here, asphyxiating
in plastic, for their distant echo
of your humid, ghost-flesh air
shouldering the leaves—that almost-a-human

            I was born in autumn
as it fled underground
to be fed to a body
of water that only swallows.

Over His Dead Body

of him,

milk in a years of sieved gush:

a threnody’d squawk of chickens,

of hundreds squabbled to grocers from farms;

stiffened in hells of stoves, at least,

as trundled bones on plates that lair

        –– all this:

crack’d apart of eggs, babes against

affrightful skillets glee’d by grease;

nameless butchers that pummell’d

the gory steaks for abrupt of his fork

and teeth; unraveled bacon by the yard

moving its char along his tubes,

could not be held, could not leave much;

oysters could not save a thing;

nor could shrimp from plundered shallows,

neckbones, heavy pork shops,

do much –– nor could groundround

daunt; steamed up lobster,

lush’d with butter, failed completely

––the body no gravy could fill

To be morsel’d off to fat grubs

(Let my own personal feelings offend:

That he ate well enough we know

––as to what end––,