An invisible rope tied round my waist pulls me to
This place of sea meeting endless shoreline,
Where I will one day live, or maybe just one day did.
If it made any difference,
I would write this poem anonymously,
Or make up some vague psynonym,
Slightly more contrary than Bird
Which I sometimes go by in letter.
The collapse of the New England fisheries
Cod, Atlantic halibut and haddock gone the way of the great auk
Depleted by the big trawlers.
It is more than suburban tendrils,
For these Maine lobstering men and women,
Many who can no longer afford to live by the coast.
Access to the flats for clammers and wormers
Once communally accessible.
Now the rights to the edge of the sea are
Being bought by millionaires from far
Away cities who look at these gritty earthy people
Like the White Europeans looked upon the natives
300 years ago, when,
Arrogant Biblical lies filling their heads,
They fought the Wabanaki, Sacos, Kennebecs, Penobscots.
Sophisticated societies thousands of years old,
Living lives in rhythm with the Great Mother.
Those who live on this land now,
The ancestors of the Europeans
Again fighting to be here at all,
The same DNA, bones, as the ones who felled the old trees,
Forced first from the rocky shores of Ireland
Then from the eastern cities,
These people who fought for this land,
Buried in thousands of small holes in old cemeteries,
Which scatter this landscape like spring lupines,
The original white people here who
Here like everywhere, conquered in order to have.
Is any land free of this horrible legacy?
They fought endlessly, first against first Britain,
Then Boston, for rocky soil, where little will grow,
For small boats and fierce tides,
they spent their short lives battling disease and poverty.
Now, no more fish to be caught, the ones still
Working the sea spend their days
Hauling traps of crawling, ground-dwelling,
Clawed creatures of the sea.
Back breaking. Dangerous.
It’s a hard life
Wedged at the edge, between the continents.
Apparently the rich folks from the cities don’t understand
Neighbors who don’t preen and party and prance about like
But who ever thought it would come to this?
Me, someone who catches insects
And carries them gently outside,
Defending people who kill other beings,
For food and a roof over their heads.
I have always stood up for the under
Dog. The dog at the foot of the bed who
In my mind’s eye sits in the chair of King and Queen.
I should be fighting for the lobsters,
Have gone terribly astray
In my own way.
It is a classic foggy Maine day,
The air is thick with smoke and mist.
I have been convinced to drive
An hour and half up coastal Route 1
From Cape Rosier,
The outcropping of land and rocks
Which tugs at me, to the edge of Acadia National Park.
Touristy even in the fall still.
We sit by an inlet,
Surrounded by people
With New York accents.
In front they are boiling lobsters
In vats of seawater
stoking the fires with wood.
People stop and take pictures
With digital cameras –
Such a bizarre contrast,
Technology flashing in the face
Of rough slogged smoky men
Working wood fires with
Rising salty steam seen around the bend in the road.
Inside tables of people,
Each with a lobster on a tray with boiled corn in tin foil, or
Waiting for their number to be called.
I am sitting inside,
As if caught in a fog of time and place, remembering,
Standing in line to take my food, all of us, then,
With plates in hand, walking, slowly, purposeful,
Eyes downcast, to a place at
One of the tables
At a silent meditation retreat.
For a half hour we all sat, a room of fifty people.
The only sound forks and spoons clicking on dishes.
We are eating meditatively, straining to be focused,
To be in the moment with awareness.
To be in the moment, when our minds drift, bring them back
To sitting there in that hall in that chair a person on either side
To focus on the food, the scents, flavor, texture,
The sensation on our tongues, the chewing, swallowing.
All done in silence but for the sound clicking, of chairs scraping, all
Exquisite concentration and presence.
I love these meals at meditation retreat.
This is how I want the touristy people around me at to eat a lobster.
Aware these beings were alive just moments before.
That the only reason they went willingly into the boiling water
Is because their hands (okay, claws), were tied and someone much bigger
Than them was giving them no choice.
I want these touristy people to understand
That all life is precious
The lobsters, shells blackish blue ten minutes ago,
Now blood red,
Eight legs curled in death.
I want these touristy people to know, really know,
That these beautiful creatures have died for them
Not supposedly like Jesus died for them
Not so they can live mindlessly,
Although most do.
These people don’t need to eat lobsters to live.
But the Maine people need to catch and sell them
So, what has evolved is a tenuous give and take of resources.
I want these tourists to really know, to really understand,
Every being, every lobster, has a personality, a life force.
Gendered and territorial, lobsters will fight like the fiercest bulls
For their spaces.
Some are courageous and some shy, some aggressive
And some placid and solitary, some wise
Others foolhardy, each one carving its own little niche
In a spot, down on the floor, of the sea.
I want these diners to know
That these creatures have
As much as a right to live
As the person on whose plate their lives have ended.
That on their plate before them
Is representation of a symbol of the endless litany of the powerful
Versus the weak
The predator and the prey.
That this lobster has died for money.
And some smelly hairy furless human woman’s, or man’s,
Momentary meaningless pleasure.
At the next table a man comments over and over again
How sweet the meat… until I decide he has some sort of personality disorder.
My lobster arrives and I take my first bite
Another man watches me out of the corner of his eye
My hands, face, soon covered with the essence of this creature,
Like rising up from the body of a lover.
A Mainer by his accent, the watcher, says, forlornly, to someone at another table,
embarrassing to me, seemingly suddenly thrust into
The spotlight — am I some sort of a gastronomical role model? —
How he loves sticking his whole darn face into the lobster
With a rueful smile adding
“my wife…” (in front ordering)
“she won’t let me eat them um this way”.
And there is no way to deny this is the most delicious animal
I have ever eaten, the smell of wood smoke in its flesh,
The seawater from the vats inched through the joints,
And I eat with abandon, and feel
Like how I use to feel when I threw a piece of clay on the wheel
The wet soft slimy primordial clay
Under the direction of my hands moving from wet lump
Into whatever form I directed it.
Like digging my hands into the soil when gardening,
Ending a day in the garden as happy with what I’ve accomplished
As with black dirt under my fingernails.
Eating a lobster like this is like taking the earth into my body,
The spirit of life
The earth that is the source of life
The great mother
This lobster is a cathedral upon which I worship.
This sea harbors the lobster.
This earth harbors the sea,
The universe is just holding the earth
In its tentative claw.
Will it be too late
We all ride the waves
© Susan Lynn Gesmer, Trenton Bridge, Route 3, 2005