It fell on the desk there,
quiet and surprised
when I tipped the shell dusting
and inevitably rummaging

to find a particular netted olive
or banded tulip, wandering
through a thousand distant
footsteps in the sand

that sifted there suddenly
on the desk, a displaced drift
of pink and white grit,
some grey made infinite

by the endless grinding waves
and the sharp beaks of parrot fish
that transform the reef as rain
carves the mountain, rendering stone.

Where things fit, do the most good,
could be called home,
which would explain why
I brushed the grains back

into the shell's upturned cup,
made sure none fell on the floor,
where the Oreck might trap them,
or the dogs' reckless paws,

or any number of fates
almost as bad as the one I’d already
consigned us to, there on the desk
lost in a shell, listening for the sea.