Callinectes Sapidus

At the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay
the sun sets slow and gilded
turning the fair-haired heads
bobbing on the shore into
glowing halos
I am teaching families the art
of crabbing, a catch
and release program

with a serrated knife in a bucket
I have cut chicken into chunks
laid them raw on the sand
to be speared and thrown out on cast lines
I had spent hours untangling
while listening to the news reports
of another mass shooting, this

one is home, this one is here. Did you know
you can feel a soft crab’s heartbeat
just by holding them carefully? I am no longer
bothered by the rough handling of the chicken
the skin pools like gelatin, the seagulls circle
above this buffet as I describe how blue crabs
shed their shells more than 20 times in their life

how to identify the males from the females
the rounded apron of the Sook, the triangular
point of the Sally, the narrow, sharp spear
of the Jimmy, what we order for parties
every summer, unfolding the newspapers
taking care not to read the headlines
cracking and breaking the shells, the cobalt
shot across their front claws

their latin name means beautiful, savory
swimmers and as the families lure the crabs
to shore skittering sideways into my waiting
net we hoist a female hugely pregnant, a sponge
caviar black throbbing on her belly. As the children
swarm around, her pincers click out codes
of warning. When the eggs are first formed
they are bright orange then shift to dark brown
then deep black, this, I pause is the development

of millions of individual baby crab eyes

all of them watching, being watched
as I lower the net in the calm surf
watch the crab vanish underwater
beautiful as memory, while every
mother places their hands on their
child’s head in protection.

Kindra McDonald is the author of the poetry collections Fossils published by Finishing Line Press and In the Meat Years by Aldrich Press, both in 2019 and the chapbooks Concealed Weapons, (2015) and Elements and Briars, (2016.) She received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and her BA from Virginia Wesleyan University. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies to include Rise up Review, Twyckenham Notes, Muddy River Poetry Review and the anthology, The Nearest Poem. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for Bettering American Poetry. She lives in the city of mermaids with her husband and cats where she bakes, hikes, and changes hobbies monthly.

Kindra’s work previously appeared in September 2002.