DR (1949 / Los Angeles, California)

Crawdaddy

Watery shadows and grass ladders
at the bottom of that brook,
where the crayfish
waited. And the girls
wanted him, they were
screaming for the animal
of white shields under
the water; they wanted
that craw daddy, they
wanted to bring it back
to their aquarium, and they
emptied and gave me
a trashed cup they'd
been trying to catch
tadpoles in.
I thought a branch
the wind shook
at quick intervals
signaled someone
else stepping onto
the path where
the brook converged,
but it was only
a swaying branch,
an illusory signal,
and I braced forward
on my elbows holding the cup;
and the crayfish waited, stopped
between rocks, then scuttled
sideways lifting its pincers
through lids of algae.
I pulled back the excessive
growth with a stick,
and touched the side
of it with a longer
branch. I didn't want
to catch that thing
at all. Pointed,
thick-armored, hellish
pincers raised, probably
why the seven and eight
year-old girls wanted
it and to touch
its face and
the curling antennae
with their own sticks.

They wanted the craw daddy,
but I wasn't going to take it,
the back part of its body afloat,
rounded feminine-lipped tail
upturned, balanced to
propel the hardened
lopsided frontal
body and heavy
pincers forward, or
to the side. They
urged me to scoop it
into the cup, but I
caught myself quick
enough and backed out.
There was some instinct
to clearly see it, to take him
in, but to leave him there,
recognize the odd
fit of the front
and the back,
the grotesque and
the delicate, neither
below the other. I stood
in the craw daddy's water,
where he prepared to
battle more than our
sticks, if he had to. I stood
laced behind branches
praising something about
the foliage and the dripping blossoms
the hummingbirds turned
and returned to
in May heat.

Later, I stood in the alley
of the apartment we
lived behind on 26th St.
off Arizona Ave., stood
there shadowed by
the pepper tree branches
beside rubbish, alone,
next to thrown-out shoes
with wide heels ground down
to a drastic angle. I stood there
looking down at them
empathizing abstractly about
the unknown life out of accord
that made them turn out that way.

by Doren Robbins

Comments (1)

oh the grotesque and the delicate...I read this to my husband and he says he remembers running home from the creek up the street from his boyhood home with one hanging from his finger...latched on. He said they used to catch them from behind with their hands- take a good look at them- and then let them go. Thanks, I enjoyed sharing this poem- and like the added stanza- that brings it full circle and gives it meaning.