Each spring they hold a crawdad festival—
the tents painted red and full of steam.
The older women teach nieces and daughters
to mind the boiling pots with foot-long spoons.
The basil and bean broth simmers. They wait
wiping their faces with handkerchiefs.
The men hike back from cold crick run-offs
up to their elbows and knees in mud, the bags
of burlap wriggling and pinching until they’re emptied.
_ _Drop the basil now.
_ _Bring the carrots up to breathe.
After the banquet they vote by throwing shells
on an old-fashioned scale, so they can crown
this Spring’s Crawdad King and Queen.
Crick water escapes through the slats of the tents,
beneath their eaves, at each mooring stake
and hand-laced corner—it escapes them,
their songs cut short in fits
of coughing, laughter and half-verses.
The tents fill again with hissing steam, and they sing.
_ _I think I like it here.
_ _I’ll get along fine.
Jacob Strautmann’s first poetry collection, The Land of the Dead is Open for Business, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in spring 2020. His poems have appeared in Appalachian Heritage, The Harlequin, AGNI, Quiddity, and elsewhere. Recipient of a 2018 Massachusetts Cultural Council fellowship, Strautmann is a contributing editor of Salamander and the managing director of Boston Playwrights’ Theatre at Boston University. (updated 10/2018)