Before the end of our holiday
in the tropical heat, you told me
you did not want the shell. But I did not listen.
When we journeyed back home,
my prize from the reefs made it
through Customs undetected.
I declared I was clear.
I did not care about rough edges
which would grow as brittle
as my memories of the shore.
It was the color inside—
hot pink, radiating warmth—
I needed back in our apartment
under a miasma of winter fog
as radiators rattled all night long.
Still, you worried what the shell might say
about me when visitors held it to their ears.
So it had to remain locked away
in my study, and you reminded me
again and again that it belonged
beneath waves, shelter
for those who endured
where we did not belong.
Noel Sloboda is the author of the poetry collections Shell Games (2008) and Our Rarer Monsters (2013) as well as several chapbooks. He has also published a book about Edith Wharton and Gertrude Stein. Sloboda teaches at Penn State York.