Apr. 5, 2001

The Lobsters

by Howard Nemerov

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Poem: "Lobsters," by Howard Nemerov, from The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (University of Chicago Press).


Here at the Super Duper, in a glass tank
Supplied by a rill of cold fresh water
Running down a glass washboard at one end
And siphoned off at the other, and so
Perpetually renewed, a herd of lobster
Is made available to the customer
Who may choose whichever one he wants
to carry home and drop into boiling water
And serve with a sauce of melted butter.

Meanwhile, the beauty of strangeness marks
These creatures, who move (when they do)
With a slow, vague wavering of claws,
The somnambulist's effortless clambering
AS he crawls over the shell of a dream
Resembling himself. Their velvet colors,
Mud red, bruise purple, cadaver green
Speckled with black, their camouflage at home,
Make them conspicuous here in the strong
Day-imitating light, the incommensurable
Philosophers and at the same time victims
Herded together in the marketplace, asleep
Except for certain tentative gestures
Of their antennae, or their imperial claws
Pegged shut with a whittled stick at the wrist.

We inlanders, buying our needful food,
Pause over these slow, gigantic spiders
That spin not. We pause and are bemused,
And sometimes it happens that a mind sinks down
to the blind abyss in a swirl of sand, goes cold
And archaic in a carapace of horn,
Thinking: There's something underneath the world.

The flame beneath the pot that boils the water.

It's the birthday of writer Arthur Hailey, born in Luton, England (1920). He immigrated to Canada, where he was an advertising copywriter, and then began writing television plays and fiction. He came out with a series of bestsellers in the 1960s and 1970s including Hotel (1965), Airport (1968), and Wheels (1971), all of which were made into popular movies.

It's the birthday of mystery writer Robert Bloch, born in Chicago (1917), best known for his novel Psycho, which was made into a classic terror film by Alfred Hitchcock (1960).

It's the birthday of actress Bette Davis, born in Lowell, Massachusetts (1908). She played both romantic heroines and nasty women in over 100 screen roles.

It's the birthday of poet Richard Eberhart, born in Minneapolis, Minnesota (1904). He wrote poetry for nearly sixty years, the best of which was published in Collected Poems: 1930-1986 (1986).

It's the birthday of British philosopher and political theorist Thomas Hobbes, born in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, England (1588). He's best known for his books Leviathan (1651) and Questions Concerning Liberty (1656), in which he said that human beings, in their natural state, lead lives that are "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short: Fear of death, however, leads them to enter into a social contract to create a government.''

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