Shall hold a life like a cupped palm,

lash in the ocean. It knows  

the best exoskeletons  

protect the glass self sleeping inside. 

How to define oneself as a self 

that is only itself without the self it contained; 

the shell is itself because it holds, 

because it has not held,  

because it cannot heal.  

I wonder if I will ever hold a self, 

or if the hole through which  

my earring slips is enough hassle.  

The carapace of a bullet is what can cleave  

a space, the clean hollowness, 

which is to say the shell does the shelling. 

When the life inside leaves, 

the shell empties itself near the lees, 

less than ash, leaseless. It’s hell  

inside the sea without a warm thing to protect. 

I swallow stones

to get in the practice; 

the shell adopts oceans instead.  

I hold its ocean in the heel of my hand,  

listen to it well, the waves enshelled. 

Listen– tip it to your ear.