Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Poem by Robert P. Arthur

For our March Red Eft video, our guest poet is Robert P. Arthur.

“To be part of the Chesapeake Bay is to have skin of water,” Bob Arthur replied, when I told him how much "Where Do the Crabs Go?" 
intrigued me. And he continued: “Did you know that crabs migrate to the sea and die, but every once in a while turn back to their 
former waters and live a second life?"  Life / death, human / crab, waterman / poet -- all commingle in this mysterious lyric of the sea.
                                                                                                                                                                             -- Suzanne 

Where Do the Crabs Go?

Where Do the Crabs Go?

Where do the crabs go
            leaving their shadows behind them
What presses their return from
            the autumnal reef

In the winter I shall row with a
            stranger beside me
Call him an old hand, ready with the sail
Let the stranger spend his knowledge
            of all things passing
The fiery sun that blushes to be born
The stirrings in the cottages
            and demarcations of the gull
I shall row from the darkness of my
            brain to where charts have no meaning
And my friends of the air cannot see one another

And should you move with me
beyond the shallows
Your petticoats behind you
And the tide at an oar

We may hope to discover no eddying
            of days, or hands, or shoals
Only ourselves—ghosts of light
            and tireless travelers
Some fisherman on the bay will look
            up from his catch and say
            with a blue sook listening
I am a living thing

I breathe and I am dying

But that is not what we’ll whisper
           with our voices of shelled things
In our skins of water

"Where Do the Crabs Go?" appears in the book-length sequence Hymn to the Chesapeake (Rolling Olive Press, 2015).

Robert P. Arthur is the current President of the Poetry Society of Virginia 
and twice a finalist for Poet Laureate of Virginia. He has produced books 
of poetry, plays, and fiction, including the book-length poem, Hymn to the 
ChesapeakeHe's known nationally and internationally for bringing poetry 
to the stage, with performances in such places as Virginia, San Francisco, 
New York City, and St. Petersburg, Russia. He lives in Virginia Beach with 
his wife, Gray, and is the father of five children. 


  1. I read that a poem is “an experience to live.” WHERE DO THE CRABS GO? makes me feel just that, as if transported to the culture and life of the Chesapeake Bay. It blurs distinctions between the human and animal worlds. Beautiful.

  2. Very thought provoking and sensually stirring feelings run through me . . . through the words, sounds and images coalescing. Very moving.