Let Loose

Leah Shelleda


In Africa

the Sukuma shaman

wears a crisscross of cowries

a bandolier of prayershells

for the souls of the slaves

dead on the ships

I imagine myself in a harness of shells

driven    to pray for the souls

of the recently extinct

Reader    we are going down

In the deeps you see

the Moon shell’s spiral

and isn’t it a symbol

of somebody’s faith?

The moon snail is larger than its shell

no mystery when it slithers out    puddles

white   like egg whites  fried to a solid ruffle

translucent above the whorl of its shell

so it’s visible to nonbelievers

I dreamed that a friend took me to a lake

and there were mollusks  like moon snails

chinawhite  impermeably solid

and my friend wanted me to see

they could swim free   of their shells

float just fine   and I was      gladdened

yes that’s the word   gladdened


Leah Shelleda is Professor Emeritus of Humanities and Philosophy at the College of Marin in Northern California. Her poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, and her chapbook, A Flash of Angel, won the Blue Light Press prize. Her book of poems, After the Jug Was Broken, and her newly edited anthology, The Book of Now: Poetry for the Rising Tide, are published by Fisher King Press.

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