Peter Olds

The shell

If you hold the shell to your ear you will hear the sounds
of the sea and the vibrations of the ship as it sails from
Lyttelton to Wellington ‘overnight’ across Cook Strait—
or so my grandmother told me …

Hold the shell to your ear, hear the sounds of the sea:
the sandhill’s grasses whistling over sliding sand where a boy
leaves his sandals. Stand at the lace curtains on tip-toe and watch
the ship’s long, low lights gleam through North Beach’s mist

on its way to Wellington. The surf booming from a sea-shell
like a bakelite radio tuned to Aunt Daisy.
The maiden-hair fern on the table; the black polished stove
with its row of vents glowing like ship’s lights.

And after you’ve seen and heard it all, it’s time for bed …
The shell is put back on the shelf next to the clock and pencils
and the envelopes for writing letters to people in faraway places:
people who eat porridge without burning their lips.

Author’s Note


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