Abalone: A Shell Poem
With a deep-seated secret
You are neither wallflower nor party girl
The friend of the friend who dances on tables
A few small stories of your own that only a good listener will discover
Your limited whorls a flattened dull case
Minimally intriguing exterior designs
And a texture summarized best by “blotchy”
But I see beneath your surface
Small perforations used for respiration
A row of decorative holes, eye-catching in their symmetry
Pried open, you reveal iridescence
A strong muscle impression
Centralized on that pearlized skin
Finger run swiftly along your rim reveal texture
You lie quietly on rocky shores
And so few that pass will see your story
A secret beneath the surface
Beyond the Poem
I was going through a dry spell when it came to poetry writing and seriously needed some inspiration. The great thing about inspiration is that it’s out there if you are willing to look for it. Unfortunately, you can never predict where it’s going to come from so you have to keep turning over rocks until something glitters and captures your interest. In this case, what finally sparked some passion in my writing was a simple, slim Smithsonian guide to shells that I discovered randomly in a library browsing session.
Every single page in this book seemed poetic to me. I didn’t previously know anything about shells and what I learned was that there is a whole new language that describes this part of nature. I discovered words that I didn’t even know existed, beautiful words that were fun to read aloud. In playing with that language on the page, I got renewed and refreshed and re-invigorated about the power of words and the way that they can be manipulated to paint pictures and shared ideas.
The great thing about shells is that there are so many dimensions to them – or at least there are for me. There is the visual beauty of looking at them and all that this inspires. There is the language of the shells, with their whorls and iridescence that I learned about from the Smithsonian book. And then there is the larger world and beach and ocean and life that they represent, bigger things that we all have in our collective memory and that most of us have individual experiences with.
This inspired me to create a series of poems related to shells. It exists in parts. This poem, Abalone, comes from Part One, which is about the actual physical representation of the shells. These poems try to describe what individual shells are like in comparison to other shells, what makes them unique and different. In the case of the abalone, it’s the inner world that requires you to look beyond just the basic common shell and into a deeper space. Of course, there is also a metaphor here about people. That’s the great thing about writing … it can take a surface image and extend it beyond that to offer a greater meaning. I hope that I have succeeded in doing that here.