Monday, April 11, 2011

National Poetry Month: 30 New Poems--XI

I love poems that aren't about what they say they're about. Like the Updike poem I shared the other day. When you find a poem with an intricate, extended metaphor, you can't help but be awestruck. Maybe this is because when it comes to writing, I'm pretty much awful at metaphors. I can spot them a mile away--but ask me to create one and you're probably going to be disappointed.

And so today for my 11th new (to me) poem in honor of National Poetry Month, I bring you "Hermit." A poem about crabs that's totally not about crabs:

by Gail Mazur
In ancient Greece, a man could withdraw into the desert
to praise his God in solitude—

he'd live out his days by himself in a cave of sand.
Eremos—Greek for desert, you could look it up.

Hermit crabs live mostly alone
in their self-chosen hermitages, they learn young

to muscle their soft asymmetrical bodies
into abandoned mollusk shells.

Without shells, those inadequate bodies
wouldn't have survived the centuries,

so they tuck their abdomens and weak back legs
inside the burden they'll carry on their backs.

It was Aristotle who first observed
they could move from one shell to another.

But sometimes a hermit crab is social—
sometimes a sandworm, a ragworm,

will live with it inside a snail shell.
And sometimes when the crab outgrows its shell

it will remove its odd companion
and bring it along to a new larger shell.

(The Greeks who taught the Western world
what could be achieved by living together

were also the first in that world to work out
a philosophical justification for living alone.)

Read the rest at Ms. Mazur's website.

So are you enjoying all these new poems this month? I hope so. Please spread the word if you are!

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