Susan Carroll Jewell

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The Myth of the Wild Oyster

Off-season is preparation or clean up
I refloat the oyster trays
while you ready the rental cottage—
our unexpected life after grad school.

This season we'll really get to fixing
the bay window and replace the deck
before the tourists roll in—the poets,
the painters, the pilgrims with time.

The growing season opens up at 50
degrees. The oyster’s job is to make a shell.
Simple enough with time. This year’s spat
will be two years maybe three from seed

to market. Hardly any wild oysters sold
anymore. These days they’re raised wild
in a cage. Beach roses watch us mend—
a nail in the wood dock, a patch on the wire

mesh, new caps for the plastic floats,
our lives together and apart.
When we first came out here,
we’d dredge the harbor at low tide

filling our bellies with rawness and laughter,
fires on the beach, spewing existential truths
like milky sperm in the brackish waters. 
We were wild—before we settled.

In season, your parents break the lawn chairs
again. They wonder aloud again
what's that floating in the harbor?
We tumble the growing cages ready again

for a summer spawn. Year-round
you keep the books and file reports.
I take care to watch the shells thicken.
Like Camus’ Sisyphus, I am happy, enough.

Painting by Gene McCormick

Keys on a Table

When we had that apartment in the Italianate house
near the college, you used to sketch all the time, slip
inside another zone with a drawing pad and 8B pencil,
sitting on the sun porch with spiral dreams
against your knees. I noodled around on the borrowed
upright in the dining room, making up musicals
from overture to finale, improvising success,
my light in the piazza with you, my only audience.
We should have gone to Tuscany when we had no money
so you could draw the stone towers of San Gimignano
and the Torre del Mangia in Siena. We could have gone
to Venice and lived with the zanzare, pests that we were,
filled with the blood of belief, open to fuck-ups and joy.
Now we can afford Italy, but not failures.
We go to the Pilgrim Monument instead, close enough
to the Piazza del Campo you say, having ceded the soft
lead of that pencil for the Mercedes we drive
to Provincetown. We think we have made it, but look at us—
we forgot and moved on, left our bliss like keys on a table.

Painting by Gene McCormick

My Vitruvian Man

You come to me like starlight,
A celestial dream with outstretched
Arms, a comfort in earthly chaos.
How you extend beyond yourself
To touch the folded arc with open
Hands, to reach the circle
In a universe of straight lines and
Squares. If harmony is your soul,
Then beauty is your name.
Your shimmering phallus,
The common measure of man,
Makes you everything they said.
More than a four-pointed star,
You are a rock star.
Yeah, yeah, my heart's in your hand,
I love, I love, I love my big Vitruvian Man
Every day, every day of the year.


Susan Carroll Jewell lives and writes in a 1923 brick schoolhouse in Upstate New York. She used to teach, cook, deliver mail, pick strawberries, edit electronic building codes, develop online instruction, and measure the movement of stars in the universe. She is legally blind now but manages to Zoom on the Writer’s Mic with other Misfits.