by Mary Oliver
from Why I Wake Early
this yellow-white lace massthat the sea has brought to the shoreand left----like popcorn stuck to itself,or a string of lace rolled up tight,or a handful of fingerling shells pasted together,each with a tear where somethingescaped into the sea. I brought it homeout of the uncombed morning and consultedamong my books. I do not knowwhat to call this sharpest desireto discover a name,but there it is, suddenly, clearlyillustrated on the page, offering my heartanother singularmoment of happiness: to know that it isthe egg case of an ocean shell,the whelk,which, in its proper season,spews forth its progeny in suchglutenous and faintlyglimmering fashion, each onechewing and tearing itself freewhile what is left rides to shore, one moresweet-as-honey answer for the wandererwhose tongue is agile, whose mind,in the world's riotous plenty,wants syntax, connections, lists,and most of all names to set beside the multitudinousstarts, flowers, sea creatures, rocks, trees.The egg case of the whelksits on my shelf in front of, as it happens, Blake.Sometimes I dreamthat everything in the world is here, in my room,in a great closet, named and orderly,and I am here too, in front of it,hardly able to see for the flash and the brightness----and sometimes I am that madcap person clapping my hands and singing;and sometimes I am that quiet person down on my knees.***********************************My whelk egg case sits on the window ledge in my breakfast room, sand still
clinging to parts of it. I brought it all the way from from Florida last spring.
It is one of my most special treasures.