Shell

You fit in the palm of my hand—coiled up.

The tight spiral at center, unwinding round.

This coil is yours, recognizable instantly.

It has invited painters to paint,

photographers to photograph,

your pure elegant form.

 

Those of numbers measured you with numbers,

speak of perfect golden ratios.

 

My fingertips trace your outer surface,

the calcified lines of tidepool ripples,

or the crust of sand dunes combed by sea breeze.

 

Lift and listen, little children say it is the sound of the ocean—

the constant rumble of always breaking surf.

 

But I hear the empty air that comes in wide open spaces,

the sky so large over Wyoming even mountains look like fish teeth.

 

How can something so small speak of places so large?

 

A little crab once picked you up, and called you home.

And then, growing too much for your curled space, discarded you.

 

Now you are the echo of an empty room.

Sometimes I have seen rooms now bare where sun has faded

the walls, and you can see squares where paintings once hung,

a long patch where the couch leaned all those years.

 

What do shells remember of the sounds we call laughing and crying,

when inside is so smooth, so ready to let go from the start.