Wet sand under bare toes
(Led by a path of moonlight
Reflected over the water)
With the tremulous cadence of the waves
Between the cliffs that guard the bay
On either side -
All were seen at twelve o'clock
By a girl meandering by the bay,
Along the shore that lines the bay,
When the sands stretch long and the tide is out.
The first thing she noticed was the sand
Oozing beneath her feet.
She could feel the weight of a thousand years
Of waves that roll relentlessly
To the tug of the moon's white beams;
How over and over, being rolled and swept,
They were cowed to velvety, sinking stuff
That refused to be grasped by the hand.
Just from her foot as she steps again,
After rinsing a hand in lapping foam,
A smooth fragment of a mollusc shell
Colored pink and white
(A white purer than a thousand doves
Pinked to a blush's hue) -
It was fragile in her hands. As she
Turned it over, it snapped.
At once she tossed it aside. "What use," she spoke,
"Is in a thing of beauty, too delicate
For the waves of its life?"
A few steps more, and she stoops to look
At a crab's claw, scarred and severed
From any other piece of what it was.
Refusing to touch it, she rolled it with a stick
To inspect this once impermeable weapon.
"It must have been caught
In the tide,"
She thought aloud,
"Where it was without defense;
Without the protection of cold, deep, silent seas,
It was left to the mercy of the gulls."
A sand dollar. Is the tide
Already coming back in?
For it is not sun-baked white:
It is still clothed thick in a soft brown fur,
So she tosses it back to its glorious home
Where it fights the waves, and more beside,
Who would strip the living from the shell.
Certainly, it is witness to a swirling
Undersea city, but it can't anchor down for long.
Farther along, being pushed up from the water,
Lies a foot-long slab of wood.
Black, smooth, it could tell a thousand tales
Of where the current had taken it -
The current would take it again. Round and round
It would go, until completely worn to dust.
There is a feather, caught in the sand.
Well, at least once it was white
And it aided an intrepid bird in its flight
Far over the sea, and in the vacillating winds
That war where the ocean meets the land.
It wore out, of course. Now useless
And covered in crud. "Such am I," she dared think,
But shook and turned away, wondering,
Do I really find myself at the sea?
On she went, numbly, as ankle-high waves plashed
At her feet.
Brushed something hard.
Her eyes fell down.
She lifted and rinsed it
And stood up.
The clearest glass sat in her palm
Polished by the tumult of the waves.
She stared at it
A long time
"It has been through the fire, to be formed;
Certainly, it has been shattered,
But now, more than ever,
It has a shape all its own."
She held it up in the moonlight,
It reflected in her eyes,
And a smile crept most slowly on her lips.
Its cool form pressed on her fingers,
She clasped it in her hand,
And she let the water chase her calmly off the beach.