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
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.