Ian cried tears on to the hard shell of a dead crab
and knew in his heart he was finally a man–

So, she imagined him to feel at least, remembering
her own crustaceous wake-up, when a clam
she had singled out from the litter of bushel basket–
a clam that had smelled perfectly fine once far
from the ranked fillet of cod, had become
her pet clam, her very own dear, whose
smooth ridges she had brushed
(in breaks from the fridge)
against her cheek,
but who, in a betrayal
of pencil tray, school desk afternoon, had unnotched
into something as wet and pink and
vulvular as a disobedient
slave’s shocked

She had learned then
of the uses of shells and coldness, of the price
of using itself–the wages
of show and tell, reflected
glory–and if these lessons didn’t turn her
into a woman–she was six–they
did teach her what most women
know –  that you must safeguard that
you love–that pride goeth
before a fall–teachings that now pierced her
like the sunset pincers
she would pluck, if she could,
from her son’s puckered fingers–
for he was not yet ready
to be a man, and she, who thought she knew
so much, had not shielded him, but instead, callowly, had shown him
a quick-rotting taste of life trials, a tale
of pried consequences, a drowned cup
of salt and sand.


Agh!  Another draftish sort of poem for Isadore Gruye’s prompt on With Real Toads to write a poem that uses a line singled out as “promising” by publishing afficionado “Hamilton Cork”.  (I don’t watch enough TV to know for sure, but I think he is a made-up kind of guy!)   The italics line above is one of “Hamilton’s” lines.    Check out Izy’s great prompt and the other poets at Real Toads.


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25 Comments on “Crusted”

  1. Deborah Says:

    I understand the under current and strength in this beautiful creation~ You are a priceless gift, too. Sincerely D

  2. dani Says:

    having a clam for a pet just seems so sad……

  3. brian miller Says:

    nice…i particularly like the second stanza…some very intentionaly use of language there…poerced her like sunset pincers…her desire to take it from her son…quick rotting taste of lifes trials….pried consequences and drowned cup…they do grow up and want to be grown up way too fast dont they…

  4. I thought this just excellent – a cautionary tale, an imaginative journey!

  5. An excellent draft k – one I think will be hard to better.

    I like to think I protected my children from what I regarded as unfairness in my childhood – in that I wasn’t unfair – hope I did – but maybe I didn’t…

    Anna :o]

  6. Kay Davies Says:

    Took me a while to figure out he was a made-up kind of guy, too, and it made Izy laugh to think she’d deceived me. LOL
    What a beautiful picture of a clam. I’ve always loved clams but sometimes they deceive me. I leave them overnight in a bucket, with oatmeal, but sometimes they don’t spit out all the sand, and are unpleasantly crunchy to eat.
    Your poem is at least one step, perhaps two, past draftish, but I know how it is. I think mine is finished, post it, then go back to make improvements, corrections, or just plain changes for the sake of change. It’s that last step that is usually unnecessary.

  7. Oh, the idea of “adopting” a clam and finding it later, expecting it to be pristine, yikes!! And as a mother, I can’t help but think I protected Riley from too much, or not enough, or the wrong things… motherhood is overwhelming. You are one of the few who dared this Cork line, and it’s… a corker! Peace, Amy

  8. I quite liked this:

    She had learned then
    of the uses of shells and coldness, of the price
    fo using itself–the wages
    of show and tell

    Many thanks. I enjoyed the poem.

    Greetings from London.

  9. Kim Nelson Says:

    Such a colorful illustration for a dark, underlying theme that you masterfully wove through this seaside tale. You are a clever one!

  10. Jamie Dedes Says:

    If this is a draft, it’s a very good one, very intentional, and with great strength.

    Being a woman, a human, and having a son … I enjoyed it much.

  11. Darkness runs through this…I feel its undercurrent. There is so much I thought I had shielded my daughters from, but time proved me wrong. Such a creative take on a single sentence.

  12. My favorite is your closing lines…a very thought-provoking piece, Karen!

  13. Marian Says:

    yowza, this is strong, even if just a beginning. pride goeth before a fall, indeed. whoosh.

  14. isadoragruye Says:

    Wow Karin. I find this piece incredibly grounded and surreal journey at the same time. I love where the prompt took you, and your use of language is top notch–in particular props for “vulvular” this is my new favorite word!!!! (because of this poem).

    I keep wanting to explain to you how and why I am in love with this piece, but words fall short. Truly a hallmark of a great poem. I wouldn’t even call this a draft, but perhaps a final piece resting now on chilled shelf in the fridge. I will say that lines like this:

    something as wet and pink and
    vulvular as a disobedient
    slave’s shocked

    make me want to buzz you at 2:00 with a fine tea mixture from the morning market and talk to you for hours until the next morning has run its course. Viva la

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      Ha! Thanks so much, Izzy. I have my mug of Yorkshire Gold right next to me. I am afraid that last night I had red wine instead of tea and am feeling the effects this morning! k.

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