Grief and Oysters

“While a number of studies have recognized that bivalve populations exhibit different rates of growth and fecundity as a result of differences in the quantity and quality of food . . . only Widdows et al. (1979) have tried to characterize the temporal and spatial variations in food quality available to natural populations of suspension feeding bivalves.”

— Newell et al. 1986

only widows have tried.
they have watched oysters in summer
when shells clap like loins in birth,
when the warm wind nudges waves
face-first into sand, forced kiss.
they have listened at night
to the sound oysters make feeding,
drawing an estuary through their bodies
needing to know every drop so they can die.

fecundity exhorts an ecstasy of becoming
in the bay. everywhere bivalves give birth,
clapping millions of eggs out to chance
like the hands of an enraptured audience.
it is god who gives the performance.

only widows can hear these things,
being intimate with birth and death.
they draw in breath after breath
slowly, knowing the value of air,
no longer waiting for their husbands’ return
but feeding in suspension, a million hanging
minutes.

I have seen a widow put her past in the earth
and then stand listening by the bay.
her hearing becomes temporal and spatial,
tracking beneath time to the benthos of
memory.
there something feeds so slowly it hardly lives.
in. out. organic. inorganic. she listens
between the lines.
— Jack Greer