So, I was heading south on Route 1 in Woolwich, Maine, having driven five hours from my home outside of Boston the day before and now returning home, when suddenly…and I do mean suddenly…there was a lobster.
And this lobster—the one I’m telling you about now—was the size of an eighteen-wheeler. From tip to tail and claw to claw, east to west and north to south. Forty feet at least in every direction.
And it was draped over the roofline of an unassuming, single-story, gray-shingled building—The Taste of Maine restaurant, which has been serving food (lobster, one presumes, though I admit that I haven’t checked the menu) for the past forty years.
This lobster…you see the picture, right?...was epic, and I mean that in the original sense of the word. Long-form poetry should have been written about this lobster. It could have been the Eighth Wonder of the Ancient World.
Except, of course, that it exists in the modern world, in fact, on Route 1 in Woolwich, Maine, in the tragically prosaic year of 2019.
Of course, the first question that occurred to me as the lobster first came into view was How in the world did I miss seeing that on my way up yesterday? I had taken the same route. It certainly hadn’t been put there in the middle of the night.
The second question, as I sped along the highway, making good time and eager to be home, was Are you really not going to stop? Really? You won’t spend even three minutes to look at what must surely be the largest fiberglass lobster in the world? What kind of person doesn’t stop for something like that?
Too often, me. But not that day.
So, after a few minutes of debating (Should I? I shouldn’t. But should I?), I pulled into a turnaround, drove a few minutes back up the road, parked across the street from the restaurant, and got out of my car to have a good look.
The oft-quoted opening lines from Mary Oliver’s “Mindful” poem came into my head:
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
To be clear, Mary Oliver is not talking about forty-foot fiberglass lobsters in this poem. She’s applauding “the ordinary, the common, the very drab, the daily presentations…” Encouraging us to find the needle of light in the haystack of what is most prosaic. But in that moment I could not deny that that great big hunk of nonsense draped like a burlesque dancer on the edge of a stage absolutely killed me with delight.
Poetry is entirely about understatement. This lobster knew nothing of that. And yet in its own way, it had called forth poetry, at least in me. It had encouraged me “to instruct myself, over and over in joy…”
And why not? Why not take joy in the absurd, in the foolishly human, in the overwrought redness of an extended crusher claw?
I have absolutely nothing profound or poetic to say about that big lobster. But I think, maybe, that might be the bigger point I was trying to grasp as I pulled my car to the side of the road, adding five minutes to a long journey from one place to another.