How to Eat Lobster
As an undergraduate at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, I took my first steps exploring the queer erotic. I connected with an “older man,” in hindsight, probably in his late-20’s. This was in 1980, before the global pandemic of HIV/AIDS. I’ve written many poems about sex with the overlay of AIDS, but very few of those poems predate the pandemic. How to Eat Lobster reclaims the erotic power of youth, the sheer joy of being desired and consumed. After 40 years, as a poet and queer man, this poem feels important – an affirmation of self, a return to who I was before the link between desire and death.
Softer than college friends, my lobsterman
is solid as a callus, a desired scratch, sky-eyed
with an upright I don’t trust, sexy as sunlight
on a harbor seal. Tight bearded, blonde,
he takes me to a pound. At our table on Cape
Porpoise, steamers, bibs we don’t wear, hot sea water.
I confess, I’ve never ordered live ones.
Mom bought me rolls. There’s sweet meat
in the legs, he says. Start there, break them off,
bite down, inch it in your mouth. Now,
snap off the tail. We peel back green tomalley.
Dipped, his bearded lip meat, chewy.
He calls it eating watermelon. The sailor savors
my slice of pink – beach blankets, belly down,
the open bills of gulls. Flying with those high
grey birds, I wonder – If I give him tongue,
will I taste his heart? I flip it up, find slick force
in the boyish body of an older lover.
Bent in a shared breath, we smell the salt
of crashing. Now, split the claw, use the cracker,
open knuckles, shove fingers in the shell.
We rinse, drop sea flesh in cloudy water.
The nut pick slips and bloodies my thumb.
He reaches across the table, takes my hand
and drinks. Blood and butter, the taste of touch
with a tongue. Love, a shattered urchin smashed
on stone. That pile of shell. The hammer of his hips,
skinned outside a cabin overhanging cliffs.
Robert Carr is the author of Amaranth, published in 2016 by Indolent Books and The Unbuttoned Eye, a full-length 2019 collection from 3: A Taos Press. Among other publications his poetry appears in Crab Orchard Review, Lana Turner Journal, Maine Review, Massachusetts Review and Shenandoah. Selected by the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, he is the recipient of a 2022 artist residency at Monson Arts. Additional information can be found at robertcarr.org.