Along the shore it is said that crabs
are animal bewitched,
creatures incapable of looking back
to see where they have been.
From obstinate tides they learned
the virtue of retreat,
of lying hidden
amid rocks and mud.
they grip in two tenacious
pincers the void they penetrate
with eyes as sharp as horns.
Nomads of the mud, they occupy
to both denizens of the seas
and beast that walk the earth.
unsociable and always on the run,
persistent, they flee immortality
in circles impossibly squared.
They fragile carapace
clamors to be ground
beneath our foot.
(Thus did Hercules avenge their bite,
but Juno, who sent the crab against that
obscene carnival clown,
against that charlatan of heroic age,
as reward placed Cancer
among the Zodiac’s twelve signs,
so that its feet and claws
might climb in summer toward the sun
—the season when seeds germinate.)
I don’t know when its name was given
to that tumor that invades tissues
and still in the last years
of the twentieth century
—merely the mention of its name casts
fear across the face of all those present.
Pacheco, José Emilio. "Discourse on Crabs." An Ark for the Next Millennium: Poems. Trans. Margaret Sayers Peden. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1993. p. 5.