At an old footbridge we set up —
Tied the chunks of eel to twine, threw the lines
As far as we could, so the crabs
Might think they’d chanced on a choice breakfast.
Pull the lines gently, my father said, draw
The string in slow and steady. We stayed for hours,
Not much to do but test the lines, nibble sandwiches
A half at a time, drink grape soda from the can.
We gazed down at the current, saw
The lines drifting away from where we sat,
Making parallel lines in the green water.
Throw him back, my father said, when
we netted a small one.
Too, there was his prohibition
against keeping the female,
her apron marked by deep ridges.
I turned the net inside out and let her go.
That night in the tiny cottage kitchen
we splashed beer and vinegar into the pot,
turned on the blue gas flame.
Barehanded, my father lifted the scuttling creatures
one by one from the cooler, dropped them into the pot.
We sprinkled the crabs with Old Bay.
I heard them moving about, rattling against one another, then
It was eerily quiet. The sweet, spicy smell
of crab suffused the room.
I breathed it in deeply.
We hammered away and picked,
Praised backfin and clawmeat,
Licked the seasoning from our lips.