Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Sandra McPherson: On the Abundance of Shell Hinges after a Storm

Half-self will be plighted to half-self

forever, junked rainbows joined by tar,

as long as a similarly tossed,

chipped person cases a shore like this

and counts its hinges, the responsible

part of toughness.  How have these ligaments

held, for their umbones, each life’s intention

of never letting go?  A jacket

may have pocketsful, but who will ever

own such an unfailing togetherness gismo,

care-device whose squeeze is slow

to lapse?  No binding is harder

to imperil than this we’ve come down for;

for when wholeness and life shall pass,

inseparability springs with recall

while stairways fall from the cliffs. 

                        ======

Author’s Note: Poets who examined the published version of “On the Abundance of Shell Hinges after a Storm” had an urge to disassemble it and reassemble it like beachcombings in different designs.  For them each line was like a shell on a beach.  Here is one example, by Lee VanDemarr.

How have these ligaments held,

            in their umbones, each life’s intention

            of never letting go?  Half-self will be

            plighted to half-self forever,

            junked rainbows joined by tar,

            as long as the similarly tossed, chipped

            person cases a shore like this

            and counts its hinges, the responsible

            part of toughness.  Stairs fall down

            the cliff.  Wholeness and life shall pass,

            but this inseparability springs with recall.

            A jacket may have pocketsful, but

            who could ever own such an unfailing

            togetherness gismo, care-device

            whose squeeze is so slow to lapse?

            We have come down for this to last,

            the binding always hardest to imperil.

Feel free to do the same.


First published in Threepenny Review, Spring, p. 12.1990 (without the Lee VanDemarr version).  The two of them subsequently published in Certain Uncollected Poems, Ostrakon Press, 2012.

Kuniyoshi, Clam Gathering, 1830

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