Do I walk the long kilometers of beach
to look for the next shell
or stand stable, like that woman
casting and recasting her hook,
patiently waiting to pull her world in to her?
I’m gathering things
that I’ll collect into stories–
pinning them down to use like words.
Nothing wrong in finding meaning
through a piece of driftwood, a stone or shell.
Objects are only things
we cast our minds against
like images against a screen–
a shadow glimpsed crossing a window shade.
My shadow cast in front of me
is such a different thing
from one I cast behind.
In the first, I am constantly hurrying
to catch up to what I’ll never catch up to.
In the other, I am leaving behind
what I can only keep by walking away from it.
I take this place along with me in clear images–
not as they were, but as my mind has cast them;
so every picture taken of the same moment is different,
each of us seeing it through our unique lens.
We cast these things in bronze or silver-gelatin,
stone, clay or poetry.
A grandma holds out pictures of her children
and her grandchildren. See? Her life’s work.
And then this and this, without further effort on her part.
I share stories of children I don’t know
who gently unwind fishing line from a struggling gull,
hearts found on the beach
or other treasures nestled in a pile of kelp.
I find my world in both these findings and departings;
the leaving each morning to go in search of them
the part I find most exhilarating–
perhaps teaching this woman
of the death-themed night-terrors
not to worry.
That longer leaving is just a new adventure.
People who do not remember let me slip away
when I would have held on, given any encouragement.
Yet fingers, letting go, flex for that next adventure.
Life is all of us letting go constantly–
taking that next step away from and to.
A white shell. I have left it there
turned over to the brown side,
so someone else can discover it, too.
This is a rewrite of an earlier poem, in response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “If You Leave.”Life is a series of beginnings and endings. We leave one job to start another; we quit cities, countries, or continents for a fresh start; we leave lovers and begin new relationships. What was the last thing you contemplated leaving? What were the pros and cons? Have you made up your mind? What will you choose?