Working for Oysters

Four other Oysters followed them,
And yet another four;
And thick and fast they came at last,
And more, and more, and more—
All hopping through the frothy waves,
And scrambling to the shore.

Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll

“The Oyster business is picking up.”
Pickers, Shuckers, Packers
picking, picking, picking
up at piece work pace
from beach to knife to plastic pack
to distributor to store and more and more
Oysters, Oysters, Oysters
none of them hopping until I close my eyes
when even more and thick and fast they come past
my Oystered mind.
It’s a pure primitive business:
farming the ocean’s floor;
it’s a pure primitive business:
picking, shucking, packing;
it’s an impure sad system
that keeps Oysters from the poor.
Rich in minerals, rich in vitamins, rich in calories,
rich in taste, Oysters are marketed for the monied.

“To work in this business you’ve got to be able
to eat ‘em raw.”
To work in this business you’ve got to be strong,
patient, persevering, pacific and probably poor.
To work in this business you’ve got to have rubber boots,
gloves, scarves, hats, coats, files, knives and nerve.
To work in this business you’ve got mostly to
make light of labor, lots of labor.

But: you meet some good hard working people;
you are perfectly fit for leisure time digging;
and you get your fill of Oysters
and more and more and more.

:: Shirley Miller, in Going for Coffee (1981)

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