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 When I eat crab, slide the rosy
rubbery claw across my tongue
I think of my mother.
She'd drive down to the edge of the Bay, tiny woman in a huge car, she'd ask the crab-man to crack it for her.
She'd stand and wait as the pliers broke those chalky homes, wild- red and knobby, those cartilage wrists, the thin orange roof of the back.
I'd come home, and find her at the table crisply unhousing the parts, laying the fierce shell on one side, the soft body on the other.
She gave us lots, because we loved it so much, so there was always enough, a mound of crab like a cross between breast-milk and meat.
The back even had the shape of a perfect ruined breast, upright flakes white as the flesh of a chrysanthemum, but the best part was the claw, she'd slide it out so slowly the tip was unbroken, scarlet bulb of the feeler—it was such a kick to easily eat that weapon, wreck its delicate hooked pulp between palate and tongue.
She loved to feed us and all she gave us was fresh, she was willing to grasp shell, membrane, stem, to go close to dirt and salt to feed us, the way she had gone near our father himself to give us life.
I look back and see us dripping at the table, feeding, her row of pink eaters, the platter of flawless limp claws, I look back further and see her in the kitchen, shelling flesh, her small hands curled—she is like a fish-hawk, wild, tearing the meat deftly, living out her life of fear and desire.

Poem by Sharon Olds
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