Little Shells

The sea coughs up pale carcasses.
Wobbling jellies, upturned crabs,
the horseshoe crab I found
on the beach at dusk. The crab
as still as a shell, its legs folded
neatly over its primitive mouth.
A gesture of protection, like ribs
clasped around a heart. There were
more skeletons in the lavender-scented
beach house I rented that weekend.
Starfish dry on the mantle, clear jars
holding conchs and whelks, stalks
of coral patrolling the entryway.
On Sunday, I packed up and left
the house pristine and empty:
another shell on the beach,
another skeleton without a host,
another pale edifice washed ashore.

—Lauren Moore

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