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Shells

Written by: Kathleen Raine | Biography
 Reaching down arm-deep into bright water 
I gathered on white sand under waves 
Shells, drifted up on beaches where I alone 
Inhabit a finite world of years and days. 
I reached my arm down a myriad years 
To gather treasure from the yester-milliennial sea-floor, 
Held in my fingers forms shaped on the day of creation. 

Building their beauty in three dimensions 
Over which the world recedes away from us, 
And in the fourth, that takes away ourselves 
From moment to moment and from year to year 
From first to last they remain in their continuous present. 
The helix revolves like a timeless thought, 
Instantaneous from apex to rim 
Like a dance whose figure is limpet or murex, 
cowrie or golden winkle. 

They sleep on the ocean floor like humming-tops 
Whose music is the mother-of-pearl octave of the rainbow, 
Harmonious shells that whisper forever in our ears, 
The world that you inhabit has not yet been created.



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