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Shells: 3:15 Experiment Poem 8/2/02

December 24, 2007

2 Trees by Sean Kirpatrick

In keeping with the season, for this week’s Poetry Train I submit this poem from the 2002 3:15 Experiment(where you wake up at 3:15am every night in August and write poetry believe it or not…there’s even 2 poetry collections of work written at 3:15am!).

BTW, it’s a lovely warm day here in Ventucky: clear and you can see the Channel Islands, a light breeze wafts the ocean air our way, the hills around Two Trees are finally starting to green after recent rains. I scrubbed out the hot tub and it’s filling with water. Be too cold tonight but should be great tomorrow! The sunset may even look like the one in the Sean Kirkpatrick painting above; this painting was on the poster for the Hillsides Conservancy Music Festival a year or two ago…

I produced the Broadside below. If you’d like a copy of it, let me know and we’ll make arrangements!  Thanks!

Shells Broadside

We hike up to Two Trees
fossilized shells under feet
one spiral whole in my hand.

When I was five maybe seven or eight
my grandpa and I walked up
the steep dirt hill
walked on seashells.

Why Grandpa how Grandpa–
my mind trying to wrap itself around
someone carrying these shells
up here to leave behind–
did they live here?

I knew the Chumash
left piles of shells in their middens
shells as trash
shells as beads
shells as money
the shells deep in the dirt.

I kneel and want to pick up the pieces:
there are more shells here
than I have ever found on the beach.

My grandpa tells me
these are ancient seabeds we walk on
high now above the shore.
The mountain used to be underwater.
The mountain used to be the beach.
This is sand.

I would be swimming.
I would be underwater.
It was very different then he says.

The shells I have found
he holds in his hand.
He may have named them.
He knew these things.
He was a tough man, a sharp man
funny sometimes but not friendly
to children always.

I knew he put a caterpillar in his mouth
telling a child they were tasty.
The child didn’t believe him.
My grandpa rolled the caterpillar
under his tongue but the child
saw it—so he swallowed.

Was I too being fooled?
They tell you so many things
these adults and they expect
you to believe them:
dinosaurs, planets, Santa Claus.

From the 315 Experiment: August 2, 2002

(Note: this was submitted October 2008 for Read Write Poem‘s prompt to write about dinosaurs, fossils or monsters.)


17 Comments leave one →
  1. December 24, 2007 12:48 am

    Your closing stanza is perfect! And this one I loved, too:

    ‘My grandpa tells me
    these are ancient seabeds we walk on
    high now above the shore.
    The mountain used to be underwater.
    The mountain used to be the beach.
    This is sand.’

    Makes me shiver with delight.

  2. December 24, 2007 1:52 am

    I liked it! It had a stream of consiousness about it… despite the fact you were probably 1/2 asleep :)

  3. December 24, 2007 4:11 pm

    I like the opening lines very much! Thanks!

  4. December 24, 2007 5:09 pm

    another great one – i just love your poems. they have such an incredible sense of place and time.

  5. December 24, 2007 5:12 pm

    “He knew these things.
    He was a tough man, a sharp man
    funny sometimes but not friendly
    to children always.”
    Very real and powerful, it’s like seeing the inside of someone who never reveals much.

  6. December 24, 2007 7:58 pm

    Ancient sea beds and caterpillars in the same poem. I love it! Thanks for sharing.

  7. artpredator permalink*
    December 24, 2007 8:02 pm

    thanks, everyone, for your positive comments!

    writing at 315 does have a stream of consciousness element to it for sure…you never quite know where you’re going and sometimes it takes a while to understand what’s there in the poem that your subconsciousness knew and trusted all along

  8. October 9, 2008 8:07 am

    Thanks for the read. I like the atmosphere your poem creates. And oh, yeah, adults will do that.

  9. October 9, 2008 9:40 am

    Yeah, clever kid! clever grandpa too… sometimes I think that the beginning of knowledge is when you just don’t know what to believe.

  10. October 9, 2008 9:53 am

    It is how it begins.
    Enjoyed that.

  11. October 9, 2008 3:47 pm

    Thank you! My 3:15am writing does have a different atmosophere than my regular writing!

    Interesting, idea, Sweet. It may begin when we start to think for ourselves.

    Glad you enjoyed that, Anthony. Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

  12. October 10, 2008 11:20 am

    You really get the sense of childhood wonder here. The end is amazing, especially the last line. And I love the word “midden.” Well, the word and the thing.

  13. October 12, 2008 4:20 pm

    I enjoyed this very much, both for the shell middens (there were quite a few ancient middens around where we were on holiday recently) and also because of the child’s voice in your poem, the ending is excellent

  14. December 27, 2008 12:14 am

    I’m glad they didn’t delete your comment in RWP–I wouldn’t have seen this!

    I get such a wonderful sense of your grandfather from this! I can hear your child’s voice–Why Grandpa, how Grandpa–and I feel him in the poem. I can hear him chuckling…

    Beautiful piece of poetry! ~Angie

  15. December 27, 2008 8:51 am

    thank you angie!

  16. December 28, 2008 6:27 pm

    I didn’t get to read this before and am so glad you reposted it. Such a sense of here & now as well as then & there. Tricky how to handle indistinct memories. Very well done.


  1. Broadsides: A Collection from ARTLIFE 1996-2004 « art predator

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