gravel and shell

I believe I will die a bent and wizened shape
in a contorted body frame
it is because of gravel           gravel and shell

when I was a young boy the gravel
at the roadside           from the blue-metal and bitumen edge
to the gutter and the adjacent footpaths
was taken from the banks of same local creek
that wound its way through the granite gorge
that ran down through the woolshed valley and connected
with the waters flowing through the old el dorado
gold field           gem stone creeks one and all

I walked everywhere in those times
with the characteristic posture of a pedestrian fossicker
hunched shoulders and head leaning forward           eyes to the ground
I was a collector of gem stone crystals
and possessed a great cardboard box full of ‘clears’ and ‘smokeys’
cut-glass inner surfaces           rough rock exteriors
all to be had at the cost of keeping an eagle eye peeled
and watching where I walked what was beneath my feet

I lost all my crystal treasure
misplaced somewhere between my adolescence and adulthood
but I still remember the thrill of unearthing
an innocuous rough rock            protruding innocently enough
from the road verge
until forcibly removed by scrabbling kicking and gouging
to reveal the reflective smoothness of hidden facets
to hold it against the sun to prove the degree of transparency

I’m older now          in the city by the bay
I walk for my health and an overweight condition
I am not a shell collector           no truly I am not           but
I like to examine them           pipis and snails that leave patterns
in the sand beneath the shallow waves
then wash up empty on the sand           fragments of fan
occasional urchin balls sans prickling spines
and lately abalone shell with its nacreous pink-tinged luster

everyone around here can find abalone shell            no surprise in that
there was a whole industry based around it on the bay and the only fun
is in finding a shell whole           as large as the palm of a hand
without holes worn by sand or broken from the action of tide
I have found variations           minuscule versions no larger than a thumbnail
each one smaller than the rest and too deliciously fragile to be ignored
I am searching them now           each night on the beaches of the bay
as I walk for the sake of my health
with hunched shoulders and head leaning forward           eyes to the ground
for no good reason save the collection of small treasure

I believe I will die a bent and wizened shape
in a contorted body frame
it is because of gravel           gravel and shell


© Frank Prem, 2002

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