Listen to Gail Mazur read this poem.
In ancient Greece, a man could withdraw into the desert
to praise his God in solitude—
he'd live out his days by himself in a cave of sand.
Eremos—Greek for desert, you could look it up.
Hermit crabs live mostly alone
in their self-chosen hermitages, they learn young
to muscle their soft asymmetrical bodies
into abandoned mollusk shells.
Without shells, those inadequate bodies
wouldn't have survived the centuries,
so they tuck their abdomens and weak back legs
inside the burden they'll carry on their backs.
It was Aristotle who first observed
they could move from one shell to another.
But sometimes a hermit crab is social—
sometimes a sandworm, a ragworm,
will live with it inside a snail shell.
And sometimes when the crab outgrows its shell
it will remove its odd companion
and bring it along to a new larger shell.
Gail Mazur's fifth book, Zeppo's First Wife: New & Selected Poems, won the 2006 Massachusetts Book Award in poetry. Her most recent collection of poems, Figures in a Landscape, was published n 2011. She is distinguished writer in residence in the graduate program of Emerson College.
For Slate's poetry submission guidelines, click spacerhereyeshyperlinkPoetry SubmissionsSlate reads new poems from Oct. 1 to April 30. Manuscripts sent between May 1 and Sept. 30 will not be considered.To submit poems: Send, as a single attached document, up to three poems of no more than 50 lines each to email@example.com. Use the poet's name for the subject line of the e-mail and for the title of the attachment. We prefer Word documents (.doc or .docx) to PDFs.Please include a brief, professional cover letter, including publication history, in the body of your email. Please limit submissions to one per poet per annual reading period. Simultaneous submissions are OK. Slate no longer accepts poetry submissions by mail. The email address firstname.lastname@example.org is for poetry submissions only (or to notify editors of acceptance elsewhere of a poem under consideration at Slate). Other inquiries, etc., will not be addressed.10000false220061444537PMWednesdayJanJanuary161/4/2006 9:45:37 PM63271989937000000020061444537PMWednesdayJanJanuary161/4/2006 9:45:37 PM632719899370000000.Clickhere to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site.Click here for an archive of "Poet's Choice" columns from the Washington Post.