Love The Middle

Chesapeake Bay wafted in heavy salt, continual shore breezes, and a depth of metallic fish. Even a six-year-old nose could detect this, the promise of gorgeous-tasting seafood bounty. She breathed her hardest at the pier. Clutching old, battered wood and estimating the horizon gave immediate pleasure. Other contenders were safety (family nearby), undefeatable time, and the peace of limited responsibility. She understood that nature and elongated July had to be enjoyed—guarded, even. She didn’t yet understand fractions or rhyme, but she knew these things.

Hot sun poured beads down her tiny neck, but she continued to watch the water.

Crabs are often caught with pieces of raw chicken attached to a box or circular net with rope or string, and cast deep into the Maryland bay. The passion and talent of drawing back, flicking a wrist, and dropping everything without causing undersea panic or losing the bait because of a light touch results from practice. Taut knots keep the baskets well-supported. Her steady and chubby hands pressed to feel the minute, the exact second when multiple crabs gathered to begin their own feast at line’s end. She then leaped above the rail like a small, nervous sailor, hauling up rope. The weight of pretty food thrilled her.

Before she sees the bounty, air hangs everywhere. Sunlight pauses, birds freeze, waves cease, clouds stagnate, and sand lies motionless. The only motion is the building in her anticipation. She wants to hold this moment forever, because once they are placed in the basket and once they drive home her achievement will vaporize. The next adventure will be pondered. So she abuses the substance of immortalizing her pre-plot memory. It keeps her safe from fear.

Of course the plot of containing, steaming, and cleaning the crabs is an astounding
memory within itself, one that should not be missed. Eating them is wonderful, but the preparation comes first.

I’ve since skipped or emotionally checked out of the middle of things, many times in life. I breezed past the duty of actually completing my homework assignments, but reveled in the first few weeks of note-taking and envisioned the future of my “perfect” final grade. I joyfully purchased volumes of Baudelaire and de Maupassant biographies, which collect dust and anxiously expect to help charm editors soon…one day…today, please?…for the love of!…Relationships had preliminary build-up, not much work done on my part in their harvesting, and were finalized by either animated deepening or unfortunate execution.

Normally this becomes just another character defect, but a man named Aristotle has really challenged this weakness. I don’t want my poetry to be forgettable or ill-crafted, whether I’m unpaid or not. Economy doesn’t matter when you have a burning need to love through well-timed words, and Aristotle knew this:

“In constructing the plot and working it out with the proper diction, the poet
should place the scene, as far as possible, before his eyes. In this way, seeing
everything with the utmost vividness, as if he were a spectator of the action, he
will discover what is in keeping with it, and be most unlikely to overlook
inconsistencies.” (Poetics, pg. 32)

Although he dwells on Epic Poetry, Tragedy and Comedy, the advice is perfect for aspiring poets of any genre. Frequently, I like to toss lovely words around without knowing which direction the story is going. Is there even a story? Mostly, there’s just a need to characterize, and to do it quickly before the Muse shuts down or goes out for a martini. Poets are funny creations. Their humor, however, should not get in the way of consistent storytelling. “Design” by Robert Frost, for example, is a concise and elegant narrative of how seeing nature makes one question its origin. The story is brief, but incredibly memorable.

I think the best way to push through and complete the process is to “gird up your loins”, as the old King Jimmy Bible says. Loins are necessary parts of the body, and a meaning of “gird” is to “provide or equip, especially to invest with the sword of knighthood.” As a knight surveys his court, intimately knows her king and queen, I can survey the landscape of what plot should look like in poetics. Aristotle spent years combing through how plot is arranged, and how it can righteously affect our lives. I’d like to spend at least a few hours gathering up my dress layers, and sweating over an interesting story.


Older family members place her catch in the basket with tongs, then she observes the mobile red sea under its lid. They sound agitated and dangerous, numerous claws poking out of the pieces of wood and a chorus of “clap, click, click.” She laughs at them sitting behind her in their van, and imagines that were they human-size they’d all be finished. Once they are in the house, a steaming pot waits on the stove. The clap-click noise grows louder, and once tossed into the pot disappears.

This is the fate of the cooked crab: sprawled out with its many cousins on a large table covered in newspaper; shuffled out to everyone in appropriate portions; claws and legs cracked off for an appetizer of meat; back fin pulled off to open up the body; lungs pulled off because they’re poisonous (and probably not tasty); unidentified mustard-like fluids ravished enthusiastically; shells broken to get to the wonderful, delicious finale of thick cream-colored manna from heaven.

She remembers all of this and sits back in the chair, sleepy.


About violetprose

Writing pulls me out of myself and into a world of color. It soothes, encourages, and inspires, among other treasures. I use it to love, work, and play. I pray it breathes life and shares hope.
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