How to Shuck an Oyster

by Alida Woods

Samish Bay, Washington

Begin with the towel
folded and layered to protect
you as you cut into the shell.

Lay it like a prayer cloth
for the sacrament you
are about to perform. Anticipate

the brine. Hold the shucking knife
tightly, tap the oyster to be sure it is alive.
Wrap the oyster, hinge end out.

Hold it firmly in the towel,
enter through the hinge,
twist to open the nacreous chamber.

Cradling the bivalve as you would unburied treasure,
slide the knife along the jagged edge,
Feel the depth of your longing.

Go slow, notice everything–the salt on your lip,
the smell of the ocean in your hand.
Be patient–reward is slow to reveal itself.

Keep your intent clear as you
release the muscle gripping
the upper shell. Do not be distracted

by the gulls on the bay
calling you to another
time and place,

but listen as the waves lap
the pebbled shore and you lay
the open shell on ice.

Alida Woods has spent most of her life among school children as a teacher and school administrator. She is grateful for time to wander and write in retirement and for the writing community in Asheville, North Carolina. Her chapbook Disturbing Borders was published in 2018.