after Sharon Olds
We fished with lines, not nets.
My father came home once
and put two shells in my hand.
Crabs poked their eyes out, watching
to see what I would do. My mother chose
crabs at the market. Grey-green armour,
impenetrable. The crabs would sit in a basin
on the floor of the laundry while my mother
pounded spices. I once filled the tub
with water. I’d thought they might drown.
In the sink, my mother would push aside
their legs, locate their underside flaps
and stab them with the pointed end
of a chopstick. I’d read that you could kill
by placing crabs in the freezer. A slow,
painless death. It was my task to unwrap
the string from the dead ones. My father would
prise off their top shells, remove the gills,
and rinse out the guts. My mother would quarter
each with a cleaver. When the crabs arrived
at the table, swimming in sauce, my father
would reassemble his. Lift the carapace.
I liked breaking off the legs, snapping the joints
and easing out the flesh in one intact sliver.
Biting the meat off the cartilage in a single
pull. I left the claws to the others,
preferring only what I could mine
through my own precise undoings.
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