Sunday, April 5, 2009

National Poetry Month: Mark Doty

If you have ever lived in a coastal town, somewhere where land meets water and water meets sky, you know what a strange and beautiful place that can be. Treasures wash ashore with the tide, storms can catch you by surprise, and there is probably no other place where the cycle of life is more evident. Poet Mark Doty, residing in Provincetown, Mass., wrote the collection of poems "Atlantis" exploring that zone between worlds: between land and sea and also between life and death. The imagery of the empty crab's shell in the following poem makes it one of my favorites:

A Green Crab's Shell

By Mark Doty

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

surrounded by
the brilliant rinse
of summer's firmament.

What color is
the underside of skin?
Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened

if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,

revealed some sky.

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