If I start with the snail shell,
you will leave,
but I promise you,
it is not about the snail.
It is about that soft, wet,
not-quite snap of an empty shell
before full dark,
and how your small fingers
push just so, as you have done before,
along the top edge of the curve
where the light shone through in green and gold at noon,
and how it gives way without breaking through
to leave an uneven mosaic
of its once logarithmic spiral.
The water laps the sand into the fine threads it does each night
once the boats have gone to dock,
and the scrape from grit under your nails
is as loud as the shell snap,
is as loud as the high treble of an intake of breath,
is as loud as the sharp, cold zipper on your stomach.
The others have all gone for evening coffee and cards,
and all the crisp things surround you.
This breath is that shell,
your coat is an interloper,
the limp minnows
in the lines that define quiet water
lie in the same space where your shoes are not.
It is a tired light that dims the shell
and pimples the skin
that the wind beat with needles from dry trees;
breathing drowns the quiet
and nightfall the shell,
and you are left with a coat
which will lead you to a home
where clarity is attenuated
by the comfort of beds and things to sleep in.