Hermit Crabs

hermit crabs exchange properties

Consummate recyclers,
hermit crabs nab empty sea shells
to use as mobile homes,
switching to roomier quarters
after each molt.

It’s not easy finding another house
that fits. You need friends, quite a few,
all with the same problem.

They come together,
as if for a barn-raising,
the biggest crab in front,
the next biggest behind him,
until a chain is formed,
the smallest tenant bringing up the rear.

Properly queued, they start trading up,
creeping out of their old shells
and into the castoff in front of them–
the leader, obliged, looks elsewhere.

If you live in the neighborhood of hermit crabs
and haven’t seen this event,
get closer, find the time.
Save your wild self.

Published by

Jean Ryan

Jean Ryan, a native Vermonter, lives in Napa, California. Her stories and essays have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies. She has also published a novel, LOST SISTER. Her short story collections, SURVIVAL SKILLS and LOVERS AND LONERS, are available online. STRANGE COMPANY, a collection of short nature essays, is available in paperback as well as digital and audio editions.

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