Amy Clampitt

(15 June 1920 - 10 September 1994 / New Providence, Iowa)

Beach Glass - Poem by Amy Clampitt

While you walk the water's edge,
turning over concepts
I can't envision, the honking buoy
serves notice that at any time
the wind may change,
the reef-bell clatters
its treble monotone, deaf as Cassandra
to any note but warning. The ocean,
cumbered by no business more urgent
than keeping open old accounts
that never balanced,
goes on shuffling its millenniums
of quartz, granite, and basalt.
It behaves
toward the permutations of novelty—
driftwood and shipwreck, last night's
beer cans, spilt oil, the coughed-up
residue of plastic—with random
impartiality, playing catch or tag
ot touch-last like a terrier,
turning the same thing over and over,
over and over. For the ocean, nothing
is beneath consideration.
The houses
of so many mussels and periwinkles
have been abandoned here, it's hopeless
to know which to salvage. Instead
I keep a lookout for beach glass—
amber of Budweiser, chrysoprase
of Almadén and Gallo, lapis
by way of (no getting around it,
I'm afraid) Phillips'
Milk of Magnesia, with now and then a rare
translucent turquoise or blurred amethyst
of no known origin.
The process
goes on forever: they came from sand,
they go back to gravel,
along with treasuries
of Murano, the buttressed
astonishments of Chartres,
which even now are readying
for being turned over and over as gravely
and gradually as an intellect
engaged in the hazardous
redefinition of structures
no one has yet looked at.

Comments about Beach Glass by Amy Clampitt

  • (4/17/2015 10:43:00 AM)

    Clampitt thinks of the beach glass she finds more as detritus than as treasure, as evidence of gradual dissolution. Even the celebrated Chartres cathedral is simply a sand castle and will eventually go back to gravel, is being turned over gravely and gradually as any human dream might be, any structure designed by the human intellect. Ironically, among the beer bottles and wine bottles are bottles of Phillips Milk of Magnesium. Though like lazuli, the semi-precious blue gemstone, it is of course mere trash - as are turquoise and amethyst. Murano, which will also return to gravel, is an island (consisting of seven islands) off the coast of Italy, famous for its glass-making. The ocean (and Time) will treat it with random impartiality. shuffling its milleniums. It's all trash to Time. (Report) Reply

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  • Kim Barney (4/17/2015 6:36:00 AM)

    I love walking on the beach and finding little treasures like the ones described here.
    I especially liked the lines
    They came from sand, they go back to gravel.
    (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: ocean, warning, beach, change, water, wind, night

Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

Poem Edited: Wednesday, March 14, 2012

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