After the description of a hermit crab in Alexander Dumas’ Grand Dictionary of Cuisine
“Above the waist he is a knight – cuirass,
gauntlet, visor – this upper half of him
Below the waist there’s nothing.
Not even the tail of a shirt.”
Head of a lobster & tail of a slug;
he plugs himself in a convenient shell.
His preoccupation is secrecy.
Catch the hermit
out of doors & his shame is lethal.
I think of that as I watch a fat priest
slip lithely into a waiting car:
that sliding movement is out of place
on his bulk, the grace
of a geisha kneeling to the tea.
Or the local politician in Daunt’s Square
shaking hands with a deft shrug.
His face is closed & smiling.
His hand is strong
& he offers it like viaticum.
The tall blond girl on Wellington Road
resting her hand on a boy’s sleeve,
I see that her life is open-air,
her face is a sea of gifts
an engagement without armour.