First Oyster

This poem was born during a workshop called “A Feast For Bards: Farm to Table Poetics,” held June 25 at the Poetry Barn. Learn more about the Poetry Barn is this issue, here.

Road trip, 1983

We loved that old car, but it often wouldn’t start.
That day, in a parking lot in Florida, we had the hood up, waiting for a jump.
A guy appeared, as always, rolling through the heat waves off the asphalt,
kind of cute, like us in 1983, but this one wasn’t satisfied
with gratitude and hugs.  He draped himself across the door,
demanding our attention, taking our sweet time.  Finally
Gretchen let him feel her up so I could get behind the wheel
and off we flew through Okaloosa.

But his pick-up with its gun rack stayed in our rear view mirror.

In Pensacola, in a panic, we pulled up to a clam shack
and joined a table of cadets from Eglin AFB.
When the guy showed up, in his overalls and sweat,
they looked at him, ten pairs of Air Force eyes,
and it was over.  I might have even pitied him
as he turned and spat and left.

Now, to the oysters.  Ten cents each and a pitcher was a buck.
The first took courage, the second was a revelation.
In the end I must have had three dozen.

Yes, we left with the cadets, and maybe later one of us
had sex with one of them, by choice, before we hit the road.

And maybe still today, when I lift an oyster to my mouth
and suck the salty mess from its cold, hard shell
I’m loving something more than just the oyster.