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A Green Crab's Shell, by Mark Doty

October 01, 1995

Not, exactly, green:

closer to bronze

preserved in kind brine,

something retrieved

from a Greco-Roman wreck,

patinated and oddly

muscular, We cannot

know what his fantastic legs were like--

though evidence

suggests eight

complexly folded

scuttling works

of armament, crowned

by the foreclaws'

gesture of menace

and power. A gull's

gobbled the center,

leaving this chamber

--size of a demitasse--

open to reveal

a shocking, Giotto blue.

Though it smells

of seaweed and ruin,

this little traveling case

comes with such lavish lining!

Imagine breathing

What color is

the underside of skin?

Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened

into this --

if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,

similarly,

revealed some sky.

From "Atlantis" by Mark Doty. (HarperCollins: $22; 101 pp.) 1995 Reprinted by permission.

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