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Conches on Christmas

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Diluvian, draggled and derelict posse, this
barnacled pod so pales
next to everything we hear of red tides and pilot whales
that a word like “drama” makes me sound remiss

except that there
was a kind of littoral drama in the way the shells
silently, sans the heraldry of bells,
neatly, sans an astrological affair,

and swiftly, sans a multitude of feet, flat-out arrived—
an encrusted school of twenty-four
Gabriellan trumpets at my beach house door
and barely half-alive.

Oh, you can bet
I picked them up, waded right up to my ankles in
there among ’em, hefted ’em up to my ears to hear the din
of all things oceanwise and wet,

but every of the ancient, bearded, anthracite,
salt-water-logged spirals,
every of the massive and unwieldy, magisterial
mollusks shut tight—

no din, no horns roaring reveille, no warning, no beat, no taps,
no coral corpus,
no porpoise purpose
except it was a secret purpose kept strictly under wraps.

A fine Christmas gift indeed, this
obscure migration,
this half-dead conch confederation
which would have smelled yon tannenbaum like fish—

a fine set of unwrappable presents
and no receipt by which I could redeem them.
I lifted one up by its stem
and thought of how, by increments,

all twenty-four
must have lugged those preassembled bodies here
sans Santa, sleigh, and eight little reindeer,
to my drasty stretch of shore.

And, no other explanation being offered for the situation,
I thought that I might understand
how one could argue that the impulse driving them to land
was a sort of evolutionary one—

misguided, yes, redundant, a million years too late,
a needless, maybe rogue and almost campy
demonstration of how history,
even in the world of the invertebrate,

repeats itself—breaker
crashing down on breaker in the Gulf, Gulf War
coming after Gulf War.
O Maker,

there is so much slug inside these shells,
here, at the end of December,
at the edge of a world I couldn’t blame if you did not remember.
Miracles sell well,

but Lord, it can be numbing
to a people who cannot
tell between a second nature and a second thought,
a second chance, or a second coming.

Source: Poetry

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This poem originally appeared in the September 2005 issue of Poetry magazine

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Conches on Christmas

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  • Poet Mike Chasar earned a BA in English from Valparaiso University, an MA in English (creative writing) from Miami University in Ohio, and a PhD in English and a certificate in book studies from the University of Iowa. His collections of poetry include the fine-art letterpress chapbooks The Dialpainter Sonnets (2004) and Seeing Things (2005). He has published poems in The Formalist, Poetry, Puerto del Sol, and Southern Poetry Review, and his op-ed verse appears frequently in newspapers.
     
    Chasar is the author of the book Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America (2012). He has had numerous articles and reviews published in such journals as the American Book Review, the Iowa Review Web, the Writer’s Chronicle, Poets & Writers magazine, and U.S. Popular Print Culture 1860–1920, volume 7 of The Oxford History of Popular Print Culture series. He writes about poetry and popular culture on his blog Poetry &...

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