Volume 34, Number 3

Variations on the Act of Shelling

White heat burns the eye’s center. Wind and sound waves assault the eardrum. Solitary shellers rise as if from the depths, bend and scuttle. Time is finite. Each one seeks the prize before the tide rolls in. Meanwhile, the largest shells explode like raindrops on a hospital or school, kick up dirt in burial grounds. Cormorants are black construction-paper cutouts atop tidal markers. They wait. Their hooked beaks prick an eggshell sky slowly peeling, runny yellow, a speck of blood. A feather drifts from a cracked shell. Inhabited shells scream into boiling water. Other shells scream into earth. The dead are scraped out of their homes. A shell arcs and creatures endure sound speeded up, vaporizing heat. Birds spiral upwards, shrieking. Remnants of flesh cling to shards, feed armies of ants. Shelling persists. A chain of ever-exploding events hurls us into a beginning we don’t know how to end.

—CJ Muchhala