The first time I discovered a horseshoe crab
in the sand, I wondered at its spiny turtle-shell,
the long point of what was probably not
a tail. Timmy picked it up, revealing
its complex underside—the legs and
legs and gills—and I ran away, shrieking.
Stupid girl. This was the last summer
we visited Cape Cod, the sequence
of events leading up to this divorce: first,
the crab; second, the bee sting; third, the big
fight at the pizza/Mexican restaurant;
fourth, the toddler who ran into your car,
the parents who left him home alone while
they played tennis across the street, the father
shaking his finger at you all the way to court:
Stupid woman. The boy was fine, but you
had nightmares about him for years—
still do—his leg pinched by the claw
of your tire. It wasn’t long before I began
pinching myself for fat, for acne, learned
to hate my body in a swimsuit, in clothes.
The sudden blood. I remember what
you taught me then: first, sugar is addictive;
second, exercise cures everything; third, sex
when you’re fifty is different from sex
when you’re twenty. So for several years
I deprived my body and for several more years
could not show my body to anyone at all.
Just recently I learned that horseshoe crabs
come onshore to mate (I am sorry, stupid,
for what I might have interrupted), that they are
evolutionary marvels, their blood harvested
to identify contamination in medical
supplies. The milky blue of it alone
is something I would like to have. I learned most,
but not all, survive their bleeding, the way
I learned there is a danger that lives in my body
and I am the only one who cannot see it.
Hannah Dow is the author of Rosarium (Acre). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in the Southern Review, Pleiades, and Cincinnati Review, among others. She is the editor in chief of Tinderbox Poetry Journal.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.