Poetry: The Sound of the Sea at the Shore

Poetry: The Sound of the Sea at the Shore

It all emerged from a tiny sea shell by Clare Celeste Börsch

As one grows older,
there should be fewer
and fewer words to say.

Each one a few letters
but taken together
meaning something large.

Sea. Sun. Shell. I gather
a little pile, burying,
unburying each, or picking

one up and holding it
to the sun, thinking,
too bright, too bright

It is a game without end
that I lose myself in
as the night begins to fall,

and I shiver a little,
my life a colorless cloak
I fancy more and more.

Like a child I will sit here,
refusing all entreaties to
Come in, come in right now …

Can words, a single word,
save me or anyone?
I hold one to my ear,

a roaring shell that says
neither yes nor no.
I listen.

Thomas Merton wrote that the contemplative life “should create a new experience of time, not as stopgap stillness, but a ‘temps vierge’—a space which can enjoy its own potentialities and hopes—and its own presence to itself. One’s own time.”

“The Sound of the Sea at the Shore” is about being lost or captured in such a moment. The moment described is both recognizably playful and also serious. We take in what a poem means in the same way we hear the ocean’s roar in a seashell. Both are essentially unparaphrasable. Nevertheless, by slowing down and listening (really listening!), we can go beyond yes or no answers to a deeper understanding of the moment, or the poem, that we’re in. 

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