Oyster House by John Barr

Oyster House

By John Barr / from Dante in China

Blue Point, Skookum, Kumamoto–
Malpeque!

In rings of a dozen they arrive;
each shell enthrones a puddled king.
Sitting with us, pitching in,
the hoplite scarfs his ostrean,
the lictor wolfs his ostrea,
the Breton gargles his huîtres.
All downed with a chalky, cheerful Chablis.

The piles of shells go out to the dumpster–
buttonized for jewelry,
pulverized for roadbed by the ton.

And what of you, Filter Feeders?
How do you answer the reavers–
waterman, starfish, gull–
out of deep time?

Let just one of you, turned female,
release 100 million eggs:
the tide dims, spat settle,
whole reefs rise
from your animal magnitude.

And why else would the conch
lift secretion to an art form,
if not for immortality?

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