You take one in your fingers while it’s still too hot.
You crack away the ruby sculptured head.
You peel the first two curved shell pieces,
pinch the tail and pull the body out.
And then you eat like crazy, as many as you want.
You stand around the deep steel fragrant pot
with four big men.
You crack and pinch and pull and sometimes suck.
Tongue, fingers burning.
They speak, infrequently, in long deep Carolina code
of dogs, birds, trucks and guns.
Dark falls around the yard.
who’s at the picnic table with a trayfull,
grunts satisfaction, expertise, bravado.
He flew the crawdads up here from the Gulf.
He is a former killer, Army, Desert Storm.
Deer hunter, maker of great deals.
Big stomach but a hard lean jaw.
His large, soft daughter hovers in his glow.
She lives next door.
Their big shared yard is full and safe.
She is a fat sweet pillow to his life.
Tonight she cruises quietly from pot to table
As if he ordered them,
she places 12 shelled mudbugs on his plate.
He grabs them with one paw,
and tosses all 12 past his greasy lips.
He grunts affection.
She doesn’t look, but sits down smiling, knowing.
When you thank her for that little glimpse of love,
she gives a shrug: “My daddy. That’s my daddy.”
You all drink beer.
Your little town shrinks down to one small circle
stammering with fire.
Linda Frye Burnham