Mary Garland Smith (b. 1868), Baltimore, c. 1876
Their rough teardrops clutter the harbor’s beach,
shuckers’ discards chucked for gulls to clean.
I pluck one from a heap, stroke my thumb across its milky bowl.
In Essex, we’d pour bushels onto tables in the lawn
tap shells with open mouths to check that they’d snap shut,
sign they were alive and safe, said Mama, for eating—
sweet Rappahannock oysters, insides soft as butter on the tongue.
The harvest pulled from these waters is briny, tough.
Oysters, my teacher says, carry the taste of the place they’re from.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 22, Issue 1.
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