Seashells

I spent my days picking up seashells

Running away from the rising waves

So the chill of ice water would not make my feet go numb

So I waited patiently for each low tide

Sitting on blankets and counting how many pretty shells I could find

Trying to ignore the waves that reached out

And touched the edges of the blankets

And some days

Curling up into myself and trying to block out the freeze

When the tides came too high and wrapped around me

And pulled my stacks of shells back with them

I could do nothing but wait

Until the water would pull itself back

And I could go search for shells again

 

I spent my days picking up seashells

Taking each one I could see and giving them to someone

Who didn’t have as many as me

Each time I handed him a bag of shells

He smiled and told me I was as pretty as them

But despite the bags of shells I gave him

He still didn’t have as many as me

So I ran out to the sand

Out to gather as many as I could

And when the tide began to rise, I stayed on the beach

Letting the water wrap around my ankles

Letting the chill numb my legs and hands

Because I was so desperate to find more so he could smile again

With the more shells I gave him, though

He smiled less and less

Wanted more and more

Telling me my shells weren’t making him as happy

So I gave him all of mine

Until he left the beach altogether

Leaving behind a pile of shattered shells

All the ones I had given him

 

I spent my days picking up seashells

Making small stacks of them by my blankets

And making sure to be careful with each one

One day, I was told my shells were the prettiest shells to ever be seen

So I gave one shell to each girl

The next day, they came back

They told me I was great at finding such pretty shells

And they showed me some of their own

So I gave them each one more

Each day, they came back

Letting me see their seashells and taking one of mine, two of mine

Three of mine, seven of mine

And soon, each day, they were taking and sharing all of mine

Until they left because I was holding a few in my pockets

And I wasn’t giving enough

 

I spend my days picking up seashells

Tucking them away in my pockets and backpack

I do not want them taken from me again

But I am chained to another person

Tall enough to stand above the rushing waves

As she holds me down under the water

Commanding me to find more shells as proof that I am trying

But every time I catch a few in my hands

The only-rising tide grabs them away from me again

Salty water swirls around my head and in my mouth, up my nose

Filling my lungs

She tells me to stop coughing

Saying I have no reason to because she is standing in the water as well

Though it only reaches waist-high

So I am waiting for the day

When I can cut the chains and keep my shells for myself again

 

I spent my days picking up seashells

Searching for some kind of sign that there are still some there at low tide

I have resorted to picking up anything I can find

Filling my pockets with rocks to sit alongside the few shells I have left

Walking next to someone

Who is willing to trade her beautiful shells for the small stones I hold

And I wonder when I can find more of my shells

On the fair banks of the sea again

I spend my days

Searching desperately for seashells

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