POEM: THE SHELL

by contemplativeinquiry

Who could devise

But the dark sea this thing

Of depth, of dyes

Claws of weed cling,

Whose colour cries:

‘I am of water, as of air the wing’,

Yet holds the eyes

As though they looked on music perishing?

Yet the shell knows

Only its own dark chamber

Coiled in repose

Where without number

One by one goes

Each blind wave, feeling mother-of-pearl and amber,

Flooding, to close

A book all men might clasp, yet none remember.

Too far away

For thought to find the track,

Sparkling with spray

Rose, green and black,

The colours play,

Strained by the ebb, revealing in the wrack

The myth of day,

A girl too still to call her bridegroom back.

There falls the weight

Of glory unpossessed:

There the sands late

Hold the new guest

Whose ponderous freight

Draws the pool’s hollow like a footprint pressed.

Its outcast state

Suddenly seems miraculous and blessed.

Turn it; now hold its ancient heart. How fair

With lost tales told

In sea-salt air

Light’s leaf of gold

Leaps from the threshold up the spiral stair,

Then lost, is cold,

Bound in a flash to rock with Ariadne’s hair.

Vernon Watkins New Selected Poems Manchester: Carcanet, 2006 (Edited with an introduction by Richard Ramsbotham; foreword by Rowan Williams)