On Exoskeletons and Mammals by Max Orr

On Exoskeletons and Mammals

Every morning before sun washes the porch in pinks and yellows, I let the cat in. Most days he comes from the bushes, bounces off his paws up the steps, a low greeting rolling from the base of his throat like tires on gravel. But this morning he stopped to mew proudly over the lobster shell rotting on the welcome mat. It glowed red in the pre-dawn dark, buzzing with black flies.

I stared at this offering, so far from sea. This skeleton, ripped from the raw back of another, dragged through trash, and deposited at my doorstep. I thought of my own armor, of its softness in some places, of its hardness in others. I thought of the mornings when I push and pull an Emory board across the callouses coating palms and fingers, sanding away epidermis until what remains is just thick enough to keep the blood inside. It doesn’t take a fisherman or a grateful pet to drag me from the sea and lay me bare—only opposable thumbs and good intent.


About the Poet
Max Orr is an English teacher living with his cat and his climbing partner in Columbus, Ohio.