We Eat Like Kings

Lobster pots (1880-1881). James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903 American), artist; Samuel Putnam Avery (1822-1904), collector. Twenty-six etchings. Image courtesy of the New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Briny and smiling, he stood
in the kitchen, pulled me over
to the pot, lifted the lid:
an odd insect with pomegranate-
seed eyes waved its feelers
like awkward chopsticks.
I pitied this fish-knight,
fully armored and fallen
into a boiling, iron bay.
As teenagers we poach lobster
after midnight to slip Gamies,
craft traps in the canyon,
smuggle them aboard our skiff,
bait chum and let them sink.
By dark we hoist stuffed
lobster pots up from the coves,
spider crabs, leopard sharks,
captives thrashing or side
-stepping across the deck, eels
slipping from traps like tongues
cut loose from a jaw. Reaching
in for gold, we twist off tails,
count each one as cash
in town where we sell bugs
secretly to restaurants. We
eat like kings all summer:
lobster & steak, lobster & eggs,
our hands swollen and scarred,
our eyes tired and belying a double
life that might cage us.

Marc Malandra teaches at Biola University and lives in Brea, California.
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