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This poem is taken from PN Review 15, Volume 7 Number 1, September - October 1980.

Four Poems Lawrence Sail
SHELLS

Along the banded beach
lie tellins, bright crash-landed butterflies,
with shells of mussels, blue and glossy almonds,
and scallops, fossil fans laid out to dry.
Shells, like words, are what you make of them-
pilgrims' badges, money, pubic shields,
Aztec tribute, scoops for holding oil,
pastry moulds or gems.

To match the shining fragments
or find the metaphor of a different use
appears retrieval of a kind, but brings
no sense of shape: the bits remain diffuse
as waves are in the sparkling air of distance.
Beneath the minded phrases, what remains
is half a story, lifeless beauty shrugged
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