'Shell Burial' by Adrian Caesar | States of Poetry ACT - Series One

Without bucket or spade we build
the sandcastle, dragging and gathering
piling and patting our little Camelot.
I excavate a moat, shape a drawbridge,
a sloping road leading to the keep,
while you look for shells to decorate
the edifice, or so I thought, the way we'd
done last holiday some months ago.
But this time you have another purpose:
instead of rendering the fort
silently intent you bury your trove
beneath the road; push fans and whorls
and spirals deep inside the solid mound,
your busy fingers smooth the surface
concealing wonder beneath the bland
façade. It is no aberration.
You run to collect more; again and again
you bury your haul deep within,
as if approaching four years old
you already know the maker's secret;
the way charged moments sink
from the world to be saved in the dark
protected as a scallop in the shell
the shell within the sandy walls.
The next stage of delight is to uncover
to see again unearthed the treasure
and recognise the prompting gift
for what it is; to clean and polish
and make new. I watch you brush away
the grit and know you have begun
the necessary long apprenticeship
that journey of perpetual discovery
and re-discovery, by which
the delicate, fragile, pilgrim self
pursues its becoming process
and graduates to be an artisan
of other castles in paint or ink or stone,
knowing they all begin and end in air.

Adrian Caesar

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