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PhotoPlay 2: Portrait of a Shell, Sand, and the Sea Poetry Prompt


Portrait of a Shell

We are dipping our toes in the ocean over here at Tweetspeak Poetry. Find a poem tucked inside one of the photos you see here, as we continue to flex our writing mussels (Don’t clam up over our jokes ;) ) in this week’s PhotoPlay 2 Poetry Prompt.

Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s PhotoPlay Prompt: Portrait of a Shell, Sand, and the Sea. Here’s a poem by Elizabeth that had us dreaming of a walk on the beach:

Archiving a life
by the edge of the sea
We search
For anything
That records all of this
Mirroring life
Buried in salt
Washed by the sea
We walk
Syncopated side steps
Then back
We track the slithering
Lined with debris
A field of antiquities
Offered up to me
For the remembering of this
By the salty repository
He and I
Always together
Never far apart
Gathering up our days
In the wrinkled folds of flesh
Fingers unfurled
Hands, palm up
Marking them
In shades of Olives

—by Elizabeth Marshall

And here’s a photo offered by Susan Etole:
Sea Shell

Poetry Prompt: Choose a photo from this post and respond with a poem. Place it in the comment box. We’ll be reading.


Be sure to check out the highlights from Photo Prompt participants on the Photo Play Pinterest board! And keep clicking and/or playing with words.

Photos by Nick Thompson, and  S. Etole. Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Heather Eure.


Sometimes we feature your poems in Every Day Poems, with your permission of course. Thanks for writing with us!

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Your Comments

24 Comments so far

  1. Zachary Garripoli says:


    Rialto Beach

    At dawn I knelt to touch a star
    clinging to a shell of hammered metal
    in a tidal pool.

    This afternoon a flock of birds
    sniped at brine-flies
    bursting out of white-hot sand,
    while faceless totems drifted
    back and forth between two worlds.

    Now, as evening falls,
    a million jewels emerge,
    then plummet one by one into the sea:
    too heavy for the sky to hold,
    too beautiful for words alone
    to make them shine.

    Zac Garripoli

  2. Elizabeth, this is my favorite bit of your piece… how you brought the searcher of shells to life:

    Gathering up our days
    In the wrinkled folds of flesh
    Fingers unfurled
    Hands, palm up

    And miss Susie, terrific image!

  3. Elizabeth, I like the images of “the slithering / coast” and of those “antiquities” buried in “the salty repository”; also “Gathering up our days / In the wrinkled folds ….”

    Lovely photos!

  4. From Susan’s shell:

    feel warm sugar sift through your toes
    hear the salt song cupped in the ridges
    slide down the tunnel
    spoon yourself into the sea.

  5. Shell Games

    The hermits gather round the exchange
    they see to be imminent. They’ve watched
    their brother pinched by the confines
    of a shell made too small by his expanding
    girth. They knew he was shopping.

    Their vacancy chain is on the ready. Queued
    by size, another brother is ready to move
    in as the larger moves on. They know
    this means new shells, new possibilities,
    new identities for everyone as they shift

    and squirm like homeless teenagers
    in a benevolent shelter’s clothes closet.
    Retreating into the darkened chambers
    of these new shells, they rub abdomens
    against smooth interiors, luxuriating

    in their new threads, secure in new fits.
    They’re ready now to flex muscles,
    shift the hand-me-down shells to catch
    the light, gastropod cast-offs on parade.
    They’ll protect their new wear and relax

    their flesh, flash their pinchers in and out
    of their new habiliments, eager young bucks
    coaxing females who lurk and wait
    in sea-side dives, eye stalks swiveling
    for the perfect fit to birth their own.

  6. Donna says:

    Beautiful, Elizabeth… I can almost feel the ocean air in this. I especially like this phrase: “Gathering up our days
    In the wrinkled folds of flesh”

    I wrote a haiku to go with the first image –

    abalone haiku

    here, yet unobserved
    mother of pearl born inside
    ablaone skin

  7. lynndiane says:

    Enjoy the delightful poetics here (your unedited post too, Sandra). I’d like to share a tan renga from my blog (with a photo of seashell)…

  8. Elizabeth, your poems gives me goose bumps, particularly:

    “Gathering up our days
    In the wrinkled folds of flesh”

  9. What Glass Sees

    The world is broken like a shell,
    pieces shifting in the sand:

    call them rooms, first,
    with their changing shapes:

    call them windows, there,
    paintings moving on the walls:

    call them houses, then,
    comforting and tangled in their webs:

    the children called out in the safe streets,
    the bricks like walls at rest:

    say, neighborhoods laced one to another
    with trees and lamplight:

    then, the bricks rise like soldiers,
    the alleyway shortcuts bloodied and forbidden:

    call this distance, no,
    persistence of the moon:

    call us cities of dust and tears, yes,
    ships of fears, credos of rust:

    the children in the raped streets,
    the rocket’s red glare, rising in air:

    say, distant and blue boil
    of breathing, moist and white:

    see us, infinitesimals, cast
    like grains in a conch’s coil:

    call us light, at last,
    colors bound in a bright beam.

  10. clbeyer says:

    (I don’t know if the free spacing I’ve incorporated here will hold up once I submit this post. If not, I’ll repost on my blog.)

    from Nick Thompson’s picture:

    what was leading then
    or being alive
    but the resounding if

    the unknow of knowing

    it was
    to take the whole day
    by the hand
    and sing the louder for
    having made a grasp at something
    so ungraspable

    as the sea who
    by the time she reaches us
    is nothing but shells

    yet a lighted black of color

    and a new one with a name

  11. Marcy Terwilliger says:

    “My Eyes Sea This”

    Aged feet, wet, worn.
    Walked many shorelines,
    East to West.
    Sand in colors,
    White, gray and wet brown.
    Sea dollars I’ve found.
    Pink shells, color of baby mice,
    They glitter like beaded eyes.
    Smooth to touch,
    Warm my hands.
    Watch them roll up with the sand.
    White birds stand on one leg too.
    Me, well, I walk on two.
    Black cliffs fall off to sea,
    These are my memories.

  12. lynndiane says:

    That’s a beautiful word picture, Marcy. I wrote a new piece along the same theme of time and memories…

    tides of time

    of water,
    such small
    in time
    collected to
    form many
    of salty foam
    spraying wildly
    off crests
    of rolling
    incessant waves
    pounding out
    upon the shore.
    an ocean
    sands of
    in wrinkling
    imprint on
    beach’s strand,
    leaving us
    with shiny
    bits & pieces,
    of shells;
    we pick up
    the pretty
    and turn
    these over
    in our hands
    but best to
    leave slimy
    clumps of
    to dry to
    with the
    of time.

    Thanks for allowing me to join the conversation with more experienced and eloquent poets here :)

    • Marcy Terwilliger says:


      Glad you found this spot, it makes me especially happy each day. Thank you, glad you enjoyed my poem, I love your slimy clumps of seaweed. Somehow I had forgotten those days of dark green.

  13. Marcy Terwilliger says:

    “Timeless Wonder”

    It’s the sea,
    Roaring mighty in my ears.
    Do you glow?
    Do you wonder?
    Jump a vessel,
    Headed East.
    Large Sail Cloth,
    For another life?
    Always a breeze,
    As the sun sets.
    Pink clouds float,
    Across the bay.
    Waves hit the boat,
    That carry me away.


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