Hermit Crab by Stephen Burt
That shell is pretty, but that shell is too small for me.
Each home is a hideout; each home is a secret; each home
is a getaway under the same hot lamp, a means
to a lateral move at low velocity.
I live in a room in the room
of a boy I barely see.
Sometimes the boy & his talkative friends raise
two-warm hands & try to set me free
& I retreat into myself, hoping they place
me back in my terrarium, & they
do, with disappointed alacrity.
Scatter patterns in sand, adnates, cancellates, gaping
whelk husks, a toy tractor-trailer, cracked
and dinged, beside the spine of a plastic tree,
the helmet-shaped shelter of a shadow cast
by a not-quite-buried wedge of pottery…
if I have a body that’s wholly my own
then it isn’t mine. For a while I was
protected by what I pretended to be.