The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Kelly Boyker’s “The Crab-Toed Tribe”

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The Crab-Toed Tribe

In the Western part of New York State dwells a community of crab-toed people
whose peculiar affliction has puzzled scientists. The hands and feet of this group
of people resemble the claws of a crab or a lobster.
                  – Robert Ripley – 1929

In the family portrait above the mantel
the men stand with their arms behind them,
the woman sit with their claws folded in their laps.
Just beyond our grim smiles, seahorses
are visible in the wallpaper.
At night the sky is cleaved with meteorites.

It comes with the X chromosome,
can wait tick-like for generations,
then suddenly the womb is bleeding, the mother torn.
Now there are procedures to close the claws
in vitro with rubber bands. Sometimes the child survives,
other times it emerges blue-gilled as the noon-time special
past its pull-date.
gasping on the plate.

Each birth is a thimble-sized incident,
easily erased, accounting for rumors of bubbling vats
and parts secured with twine.

We open our mouths and form bubbles,
push ourselves forward, and
tap the glass with banded claws.
We want so much to be taken home,
want so much the wanting becomes an exoskeleton
picked clean as a wishbone, waiting for the breaking,
existing only in the slender space between beauty and toxicity.

Whatever held us together has been removed,
all loose parts: thorax, claws, tail, mandibles,
the astonishing devastation.


“The Crab-Toed Tribe” appeared in Kelly Boyker’s book, Zoonosis, available from Hyacinth Girl Press. Purchase yours today!

Kelly Boyker’s work has appeared in many places, including, but not limited to, PANK, Prick of the Spindle, Arsenic Lobster, Opium Magazine and FRiGG. Her work has been Pushcart nominated and won the Richard Hugo House Power of Place Annual Inquiry. Recently, she was honored to participate in the Fainting Couch Idioglossia collaborative anthology from Blood Pudding Press. When she is not at her mortgage-paying job she acts as as the poetry editor of Menacing Hedge. She lives in Seattle with four cats, one dog and her wonderful husband, Gio.

This week’s Wardrobe Best Dressed was selected Nicole Oquendo. Nicole Oquendo is an Assistant Editor for Sundress Publications, and the Nonfiction Editor of Best of the Net. Her most recently published essays and poetry can be found in DIAGRAM, fillingStation, Storm Cellar, and Truck.


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