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Clem Vahe

Shell Babes

Sometimes the soul takes pictures of things it has wished for, but never seen.

— Anne Sexton

As a child Clemence stood on tippy-toes,
her breath elaborating the room’s silence,
fingers barely tracing smooth ivory
sculpted into boy and girl babes,nestling
inside their alabaster oyster shell,
playing a harp of stringed pearls. 

She’d conjure visions of herself dancing 
a tango in filigreed opera houses boarding
steamships misty in harbors at sunset,
her destiny hovering--heaving with
fat moments of sheer wonder like
pelicans streaking off breezes of a wave.

Heightened moments now quickened
to neglected years, smeared opportunities 
lay lackluster-brown.

Today she blows smoke clouds from a cigarette.
Her breath drains all worldly thoughts-- 
I was a shrinking violet with fangs.

Clemence had survived drowning in fears of dying 
or never dying and the shell babes remained
an insistent reminder of repeated failures.

And she, a lonely middle-aged woman huddled
against a window, dwells on the fate of her
cracked and beaten shell babes sculpture;
resting on the mantel among dingy souvenirs-- 
knick-knacks of false adventures inspired by travel brochures. 

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