Lord of the Flies brims with rich symbolism: the beast, the fire, Piggy’s glasses, the parachutist, and, of course, the conch. Most readers agree that the conch stands for law and order until, well, it doesn’t.
I did a little research on the breathing part of the conch shell, the animal who calls that shimmering pink cave its home. A mascot for the Florida Keys, and a delicacy for some, the conch is basically a big slimy snail with goofy little eyes on stalks. Unlike the vagabond hermit crab, the conch grows its shell and keeps it for life.
Not enough people have written poems to conches, so I took the challenge upon myself, including themes and a scattering of words and phrases from Lord of the Flies. Enjoy your poetic cruise!
To a Conch
You live inside a spiral of sunrise,
bumping through the sea grass
on a single slick foot.
Above you, a cruise ship
heaves its human theatre.
Splashing, dancing.Tears at the bar.
You dredge for algae.
When the boat blasts its horn,
you unfurl a single spindle eye.
At the onboard gift shop, a man
picks up one of your ancestors,
remembering that book where
a fair haired castaway lifted the shell
and blew. Don’t put your mouth
on the merchandise! The cashier snaps,
and their eyes lock in enmity,
whatever blips of understanding
smothered by the beast.
Chill out, lady, the man snarls,
tightening his grip until security
takes a warning step forward.
As you rest behind your curtains
of seaweed tonight, the man
will thrash in his twisted sheets.
Bullocks to the rules, to preserving
the understandable and lawful world,
he thinks, and finally drifts off,
dreaming of blatting
that hundred-dollar shell
all over the ship: dining hall,
piano lounge, casino, pool,
and finally in that cashier’s
stunned face. Be glad, conch,
that you don’t have to hold
the darkness of man’s heart.
Be glad the shell holds you.
Try your own Lord of the Flies Poem
Write a poem in which you address a symbol from Lord of the Flies. What do you have to say to the dead parachutist, Piggy’s glasses, the signal fire, the beast? Challenge yourself to include words and phrases from the novel.
Photo by Annso T, Creative Commons license via Flickr. Post by Tania Runyan.
How to Write a Poem contains 3 essential elements I’ve yet to find in one poetry-writing text: generous and informed instruction, dozens of compelling example poems, and rich and plentiful exercises that avoid tricks and gimmicks.
Any poetry-writing teacher would do well to assign this text. Any writer would do well to draft and revise poems based upon these prompts.”
—Nathaniel L. Hansen; Assistant Professor of English & Creative Writing, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor; Director, Windhover Writers’ Festival