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A Mess Of Clams

Today’s poem is “A Mess of Clams” by Robert P Tristam Coffin, who was born in 1892 and spent his early childhood on a salt water farm on Great Island in Harpswell.

He graduated from Bowdoin, where he later taught for many years. He published forty books in his lifetime and received the Pulitzer Prize.

A Mess of Clams
by Robert P. Tristam Coffin

The fields are high with all the Winter’s snows,
But somewhere there is cawing and glad crows,
And ice upon bare birches feels the sun
And twinkles and is starting in to run.
And old, old, man, with no tooth in his head,
Is walking fast, and Spring is in his tread
As he wades the snowdrifts of his farm,
His clam-hoe and clam-basket on his arm
Down below him, all his bay is white,
But out towards sea the dark place overnight
Has widened, and blue waves are twinkling clear
Above the first and best clams of the year.

The March sun burns upon the man’s bent bones,
His wife is lying where the slanting stones
Are hidden by the Winter. All his sons
Are begotten and have begot new ones.
He is alone, but he can go and bring
His mess of clams home in his eightieth Spring
As he could in his twentieth one, and he
Can pick his dinner up out of the sea
Just as well as any man alive
And think of things like young men fit to wive,
His head is high, and handsome as a ram’s,
And life is good and tastes of sweet young clams.

Poem copyright © 1939 Robert P. Tristam Coffin.
Reprinted from Collected Poems, Macmillan, 1939,
by permission of June Coffin.