The Crabmeat Pickers

The crab pickers work in nothing like luxury.
After a day and a half the Chesapeake thrill
gives way to a numbness in the wrists that spreads
upward into the shoulders and neck.
But how quick they are, how easily beautiful.
The older woman’s carcasses arc out
to a crate that heaps with gleaming gills and eyes.
Her daughter’s skin is shining;
the tiny beads on her neck have turned
the color of the farthest water.
They’ve long since returned the fact of the bay
to its own element,
turning their backs, trading their view
for rhythm. For rhythm
if anything shortens the day,
and the every-second flip of a back-fin into a pail
means money in a pocket. Rhythm means
they pay attention just to what is small
(she wipes away the necklace of sweat),
to what occurs in their hands,
in their fingers inside the intricate shells
that click minutes away, six cents a minute.
All day while they work the bay is off repainting itself,
glowing now with cottages and yachts, providing
them with the raw material and a choppy beat,
an odd crabbed pulse of beauty they refine to true detail.

:: David Groff, Theory of Devolution (2002)

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