Ian Parks’s Shell Island

Shell Island
Ian Parks
The girl is tall
and never thinks of food
unless he brings her
oysters from the bay
arranged with lemon
on an oval plate.
It is their only
luxury. At night
an oil-lamp swings
above the bed;
a tarnished mirror glints
across the hall;
their furniture is sanded
to a cool, transparent sheen.
Incomers, they begin
to feel at home.
Their new republic
is a state of mind
in which the world
of commerce lays no claim.
It has its laws,
its languages – a grove
of olives where
the freed bird sings.
The shells of all
the oceans gather here:
a cache of pink
exotic coils banked up
against the winter tide.
I ask if it’s still possible,
this pool of dreams
and solitudes
in which the driftwood
floats at rest
and lives retract,
becoming simplified.
Across the bay
the new refinery
lights up their hemisphere;
a still white centre
pulses and dilates.
Complex, entire,
it holds their studied
gaze: as alien, cold
and insecure
as the force it draws
its power from,
the city it anticipates.
From Shell Island (Waywiser Press, 2006).
Read more about Ian and Shell Island here.

4 thoughts on “Ian Parks’s Shell Island

  1. Regina

    Oh my- was this ever wonderful…
    I loved the immediate sense of calm it put me in and then the last two stanzas- like a wake-up call…
    Thanks for posting this, Michelle!

  2. Julie

    Fantastic poetry!! I had the same reaction Regina did. What beautiful, quiet language. Amazing images of paradise. And then…there’s the damned refinery. It’s a perfect slice of real life. I’ll admit my bias toward the subject, because it tugs at my heart and life. But it’s an excellent poem!! The best compliment of all…I wish I had written it.

  3. Christine

    The best poets always make the words flow effortlessly, as the words in this one do. I love the description of the oysters, and what it says about the girl.

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