New England Review - - Lit­er­ary Lives - Eleanor Wilner

It was the old names we thought to shed, our writ­ing a search for lan­guage too lively for words—

yes, it was names we feared, we who had lived in them like her­mit crabs in bor­rowed shells, walk­ing crab­wise across the end­less dunes, soft un­der­bel­lies hid­den, bear­ing our need for cover on our backs, above us, the heav­ens—a name to har­den the blue. And soon, out­grow­ing an ar­mor only adopted, we would find our­selves search­ing again and again (though we dreamed of re­lease) for a larger con­tainer . . .

What did it mean to shed

time af­ter time, the shells— to write up a storm, sweep­ing ev­ery­thing clean, end­ing like Beethoven’s Sixth in a sweet al­le­gretto, and a coda of peace ( pi­anis­simo), and when it was done, was any­thing changed but the page, was even a stalk of grass dis­turbed?

Yet, didn’t we leave the beach lit­tered with beau­ti­ful shells, out­grown shel­ters from which life had moved on, gleam­ing among the cases of the still un­ex­ploded mu­ni­tions, the tides turn­ing again, a silent sky in­vaded by thun­der, the peace af­ter storm for­ever ex­pected.

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