shell of heaven

The inner dome of the Radcliffe Camera reminds me of Mark Doty’s poem A Green Crab’s Shell; a poem about the underside of a crab’s armament: if you crack the exoskeleton you get a glimpse of Giotto-blue. I crack the exoskeleton of the library with my ID card, a slim knife to incise the sky. 
Doty writes:
What color is
the underside of skin?
Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened
into
this—
if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,
similarly,
revealed some sky.
(read his poem in its entirety below)


A Green Crab’s Shell  by  Mark  Doty

Not, exactly, green:
closer to bronze

preserved in kind brine,

something retrieved
from a Greco-Roman wreck,
patinated and oddly

muscular. We cannot
know what his fantastic
legs were like—

though evidence
suggests eight
complexly folded

scuttling works
of armament, crowned
by the foreclaws’

gesture of menace
and power. A gull’s
gobbled the center,

leaving this chamber
—size of a demitasse—
open to reveal

a shocking, Giotto blue.
Though it smells
of seaweed and ruin,

this little traveling case
comes with such lavish lining!
Imagine breathing

surrounded by
the brilliant rinse
of summer’s firmament.

What color is
the underside of skin?
Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened
into
this—
if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,
similarly,
revealed some sky.

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