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.