“The shell. . . is luminous with its own
strange beauty.” Sister Wendy
I was walking on the beach, looking for something,
but I didn’t know what, a piece of sand dollar
or broken whelk, a bit of glass, something
that would remind me of this day,
with the Gulf shimmering like a skillet
of sapphires, fat puffy clouds blown up
by the wind like a carnival clown
blows up balloons. The palm trees
were playing their usual refrain
of clatter and rasp, clatter and rasp.
Evening was coming on, the undersides
of the cumulus turning pink as a tropical drink,
something with rum, fruit juice, and a tiny umbrella.
And then, in the turquoise surf, although
surf’s too big a word for these small waves,
this gentle lapping in the shallows, I saw it,
rolling and tumbling in the lacy froth,
an unbroken conch shell, its pale pink lip
an echo of the sky that deepens, pinkens
by the minute, as the planet does its
nightly pirouette. If I pick it up and hold it
to my ear, with its own swoops and whorls,
I might hear the cool voice of God. Or I might
hear my mother calling, “It’s time to come in
now, hush, hush.”
This poem first appeared in Barbara Crooker's book, More (C&R Press).
Barbara Crooker is the author of nine books of poetry; Les Fauves is the most recent. Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Commonwealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania, The Poetry of Presence and Nasty Women: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse. www.barbaracrooker.com
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