Only when we tilt the shell towards this now-timorous light
does this bleached bas-relief of skill and anonymous intention make
plain to sight the face of a man, perhaps ancestral, more unknown,
ancient in his identification on the back of the widowed bivalve.
Or that the surface of the mother-of-pearl is a more forgiving canvas
even if everything on it becomes inexorably marmoreal: all pulverous
proof of disuse, gray at every groove, gives goodly depth to the seeming
empty shell, darkens it; the iridescence of his eyes is no longer all nacre.
Here is his memory, this study on shell—petrified and partial,
acronymous at best of the maker’s original sitter, and residual
on the palms what one hopes to wholly claim but cannot. This
is memory this man of mother-of-pearl. White revenant on white.
Daily resident of surfaces, with jurisdiction over far more than we'd like,
kinder with its shadows, and transient when held under the lenient light.