Shell

I.

I’ve erased

entire family stories in fear of the threats of my elders; I’ve suppressed

the curiosity to dig, lest I’m told to bury it; I’ve destroyed my memory

in the wake of gaslit fires, my kingdom for the desperate search to find

a way out from the hostile spirits I would have revered, if only they’d stop

possessing this hollow

shell I allowed them

to scoop out, so they

could whisper,

“Now dance.”

II.

What lovely conches my mother used to excavate out at sea, spiraling to pinpoints that tickled me, and

What great depths she swam to discover the the most delightful one, the right slope and texture;

What would I do had I not guarded the fine edges of my most treasured memory;

What would I hold to my ear, if not a conch;

III.

A spell to deflect the dark magic of enemies, manifested in 8-, 16-, and real-life-bit as a green bubble of effervescent

Lime-light; white magic, opening up the body in cubes that spin and turn, surely as the fourth dimension oscillates

around us; because

even in fantasy, we are

protected as turtles by armor

manifested from a part of ourselves only consciously available to us when we’re huddled in the corner, spine curved;

IV.

I asked him to paint eggshells

so he took a needle to the ends

of a half-dozen carton, drained

yolk and whites into the frying

pan, then abandoned the fragile

shells in a bowl atop the mantle

for uncomfortable months;

at 3am, I reach into the bowl,

perhaps twice a week, to rotate

which eggs rest on the edges

and in the middle, like my

penguin colony, thinking

it might help me thrive in

the storm within our house;

V.

An ostrich egg sits on a faux gold stand in the clutter of our glass-door, cross-framed cabinets, bumpy and smooth simultaneously;

I fancy only ostrich eggs are like that;

VI.

In my early twenties, now as faraway as my teens, I joined the craze for hermit crabs, but as an autistic person, I took it to my level, buying conch after conch, talking about my obscure shell store until friends told me to stop, and then a couple sentences further, because I was excited, back in an era when every credit card number sent into the Internet felt like rolling dice at the craps table, upgrading tanks and housing, food scraps and handling, until I sat with my Dungeons & Dragons group, unfolded my trifold screen, and my hermit crab punched it down;

He was bright red, the size of my fist, and he crawdad-munched anyone who wasn’t me;

I had a leather glove I gave my bravest friends to wear, with holes that said it didn’t work;

What marvelous chitin he wore, what crushing power in his unruly arm, eyes and feelers equally alien and human, the strongest man in the world;

Yet in the rare moments I watched him scuttle from an old shell to a new body, his spindly other half seemed as an infant,

Naked and shriveled

And he’d stare back at me, agreeing we now knew one another for who we’d become.

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