Accreted darkness, this whelk’s gate of glossed
sea-breath, in its twistings a life
that slides away from rhetoric and spongy
closure, stranded at the swash line
of desiccated marsh grass, dry cores
clotted with grains that have glittered
down the years from wind-worn mountain
Appalachia for miles and miles, while
the copper-heavy minds of horseshoe crabs
drain into night. Something caused this creature
to turn away, to extrude a different winding—
left-curved, left-sounding. Now it has died.
In moonlight, ghost crabs amble out of
burrows, sideways clacking over elegant disks,
over jingle shells, over moon-snail-drilled
housing once a flow of chalky sea with no
rational means.


This whelk shell a helio-fated open-
mouthed singer; the turns in its throat
the sudden unconscious movements
of a voice veering into desire’s edge.
In its vocabulary of egg casings,
a society—this broken parchment, this
pouring out of miniscule whelks into
my open palm, a bright slope inward
and visible on their right-turning spiral:
showing a history in the moral of mica grains
dotted with penny wort, chips of barnacled
wood, open-slit olive shell inscribed
with sea script, pioneering grasses
migrating beyond dunes. The saw palmetto
shedding its berries. By midnight newly
hatched turtles flopping toward the moonlit sea.

John Allman | Mudlark No. 31
Contents | Crossing the Folly