Monday, July 21, 2008



by Mary Oliver

from Why I Wake Early

Something fashioned
this yellow-white lace mass

that the sea has brought to the shore

and 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 something

escaped into the sea. I brought it home

out of the uncombed morning and consulted

among my books. I do not know

what to call this sharpest desire

to discover a name,

but there it is, suddenly, clearly

illustrated on the page, offering my heart

another singular

moment of happiness: to know that it is

the egg case of an ocean shell,

the whelk,

which, in its proper season,

spews forth its progeny in such

glutenous and faintly

glimmering fashion, each one

chewing and tearing itself free

while what is left rides to shore, one more

sweet-as-honey answer for the wanderer

whose tongue is agile, whose mind,

in the world's riotous plenty,

wants syntax, connections, lists,

and most of all names to set beside the multitudinous

starts, flowers, sea creatures, rocks, trees.

The egg case of the whelk

sits on my shelf in front of, as it happens, Blake.

Sometimes I dream

that 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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That egg case is gorgeous, good for you getting it home all that way! Love your photos, they make me wish I was there enjoying it all with you!