Recently, the same theme has come up over and over in my work, and that is that someone is searching for me. That I would be searching is the way it usually goes, but this time, I am the one being sought. I can hear them calling, but I don’t know where they are or where to begin looking or answering. This all reminds me of something from ages ago.

When I first went online in 2000, I had long been as obsessed and involved with poetry as I am now, so of course my early explorations focused on finding others who were working along similar lines. This has never been very fruitful; surely there are others, but mostly of them are hiding or I am looking in the wrong places. Once or twice, though, I found someone. This is about one of those poets and times.

I had a Web site that featured a lot of my then-current verse and some essays. I had access to some basic site statistics–the IP of each visitor, their location, pages viewed, and any links by which they entered and left the site. Fairly early on, I noticed that someone had visited a few times for a long time, viewing numerous pages. They had entered by a link which I followed back–to their own site.

The site was called brokenshells, and as I recall–perhaps incorrectly–the URL was The owner/author shared a brief list of sites they liked, which included mine as Dream Island. He turned out to be Thomas, who lived near the sea in Wales. He published his own poetry on brokenshells, and I loved it. Thomas’s mind was so subtle and he saw through so vividly. He provided an email address on his site, and we exchanged a couple of messages. Not more, though, and then one day it was gone. I wish I had downloaded the whole thing; it might help me find out what’s become of him. He must surely be working; at least he seemed pretty committed then. You know how it is. One just wonders.

This all came back to mind just now because my work lately has been full of bits of stories and one that just came through featured a fly-blown dead body who was able to talk to me. He was friendly. I did some trance-work to learn more, and he met with me, led me across water and uphill through a sacred grove to a peak, and showed me there the great fossil shells left from what was once the bottom of the ocean. The shells, scallops and clams gaping open, formed vents that allowed air to pass from the peak to the cavern rooms far below. These let flies from the man’s body get in, until an earthquake shifted them. Then the flies all died and turned to snow. That sort of thing sometimes happens here.

Now I have so many threads to follow–so many new projects and stories and plans. I have been away from my post here for a while, but more because I don’t know where to begin than because I’ve been idle. It will eventually explain itself. In the meantime, as I have told you about the man who’s just appeared with stories to tell–this is what they sound like when you hear them through me:

21 January 2021


The Shells at the Peak

It looked like a window–she’d wanted a window–and so she peered through it, and here’s what she saw:

It wasn’t a maggot; it wasn’t a splinter; it wasn’t a the husk of a fly eaten raw

by a spider; it only could be what it was in the end, as you know. As it was, so it is:

a casting of shells over stone, with some few of them broken, and bones–nearly all of them his

where the life-force once leaked from him all in a rush and she felt it, as far from his side as she was.

Deep in her heart as she knelt by the altar she knew what she heard was the gathering buzz

of a fast-hatching brood–they were eating the body of sacrifice where it had fallen and lay

within range of the subtle vibrations of tiny grey wings as they tainted the green world of day

disappearing behind them as all in their flight they explored till, exhausted, they died and stayed dead.

I shall attend to my nightmares with slow, patient grace till the sight of a man’s fly-blown head

is an oddly familiar reminder that this dream has traveled a very far way to tell tales

he will take to his grave unless somebody listens–a sick man who’s casting a spell between rales.

I counted the space between stars by the ticking of clocks turning over inside him last night.

I looked into one of the silentest absences there at the center, where no lovely light

lay tenderly shielding its children from harm when the man raised his hand to the Moon on the rise,

and with one lyric line, so enchanted my oncoming madness it shifted–it changed its disguise–

but I knew I had taken it in, and would hear it forever; it echoes in these lines of mine.

Sometimes I tell myself ghost stories–sometimes I scare myself badly, and cross a drawn line

I can’t go back across by myself. When my bones are as cold as the grave but I’m live, and can’t die,

he’s so often brought me his mantle of green and the window I find in his near-sighted eye

though I’ve driven him half to distraction. He then turns to face me in full, and it’s world without end–

but it’s also so lonely out here on the peak where a wave of his hand, and we cease to ascend–

where over the stones at the height and the center of this risen mountain once rose ocean swells.

Open like mouths that have never stopped singing, a pearl-mother garden of paired fossil shells

breathing air through the earth to our chamber–cannot you still hear them right now, as I promise you will?

Once you woke up to a face on the pillow beside yours that shone with the green underhill

of the glad source of all our enchantment, our absolute blessing of love so familiar and mild–

as tender as pearl-shell surrounding an orphan whose wept himself sore, the poor motherless child–

there were desperate flies who were lost angry soldiers and hungry ones too; they all let themselves go

in the presence of what even they understood was supernally real. As they turn into snow

and a resting place deepening, growing in visible pallor by on-rising moonlight, my lored

and impeccably present companion stands by me as rivers and oceans of new light are poured

through the cracks in the shells into this, our shared chamber of ancient, select, and arcane song in reels–

little ones dancing alive to the menace of too many dizzying wheels within wheels–

too many lovers with too many absences ending at once–too much falling all night–

and someone who’s taking too long staring through a shell-window–she’s found a strange, far, tiny light.


About J

formal verse poetry and commentary at
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