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Clade Song 3

The Horseshoe Crab                                       

Under its broad-brimmed
carapace, the horseshoe crab
subscribes to broadband
DSL, downloading programs

at the rate of five thousand
mutations an hour.
Its contemplations
and desultory meditations

trickle out of the bedpan
and stain the surrounding
sand. Gifted with
the very shape of evil,

the Crusader helmet that is
its torso
cannot help but remember
ancestral battles

whose wounds are still licked
by each painful seethe
of the ocean. But if
the furry sea-foam

is a constant torment,
the crab raises no
it is filled with spiritual purpose:

its goal, to provoke
prayer in the bubble-like
jellies whose traffic jams
the arid beach,

and which, if not for
the focused labor
of the crabs, would never
have heard of God,

nor Darwin. The crab’s
might be seen as something
of a vacation

from its main business
of scrubbing clean
the consciences
of the mostly unconscious

men upon whom
it has fallen to do
the brute work
of the brutish world:

the slow decomposition
of those that have worn out
their welcome,
the grim but graceful herd-thinning

to which, when the crown
of bleached shell fragments
is set on my head, I shall
offer songs of praise.

Clade Song 3 right

Troy Jollimore is the author of two books of poetry: At Lake Scugog (Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets, 2011) and Tom Thomson in Purgatory (Margie / Intuit House, 2006), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is also the author of three philosophical books: Friendship and Agent-Relative Morality (Garland, 2001), Love’s Vision (Princeton UP, 2011) and On Loyalty (Routledge, 2012). His poems have appeared in the New Yorker, Poetry, The Believer, McSweeney’s, and many other publications. He has been the recipient of fellowships from the Stanford Humanities Center and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and is currently Professor of Philosophy at California State University, Chico.