Leslie’s Shells

Leslie’s Shells

by Richard Allen Taylor

Her walk on the beach has bagged a formidable batch
of shells and sea glass. She lines up the pieces, row after row
on the wood-planked porch, and kneeling, camera ready,

zooms and snaps objects carefully arranged, cataloging as she goes:
Eastern Mud Snail, Common Blue Mussel, close-ups of sunlit shapes,
some fractured, some whole, Giant Tun, Lightning Whelk, Lettered Olive,

serrated or scalloped, flat or smooth, Thick Lucine Clam
and one lone chunk different from the rest, gray and spongy-looking.
It’s coral Anne tells us, set free with a bump from a broken ship,

one of a thousand sunk off the North Carolina coast,
Graveyard of the Atlantic, since records began
in 1526. So much biology. So much history.

It makes us hungry. We dash to Captain Jack’s
general store and bait shop for essential supplies—champagne,
cheese, cocktail shrimp, the basics for survival

on this sea-salted and battered barrier island where we endure
sun-splashed February chill swirling between abandoned cottages,
formations of pelicans gliding in silence against an ice-blue sky.

We imagine what will be here in mid-summer—the traffic,
the crowds, barefoot and bent with their loads of tents and towels,
umbrellas, beach chairs, boom boxes.

We agree it’s better this way—a few sturdy friends
bearing the hardships of winter by the sea.

-refers from the word “sea” in Jonathan K Rice’s poem Our Possible Life

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