He comes to secluded rock pools
and leaps from stone to stone
with the poise of a rock wallaby.
A shell sparkles from the seafloor,
sending forth a beam of light,
in a trice he dives into the deep,
and scoops it up from the sand,
before returning to the water’s surface.
On his return to the coastal village,
people marvel at these shells,
shells coloured like tropical fish,
shells that when held to the ear
whisper of exotic faraway isles.
He puts them on display in his home
––he lives alone in the village.
Curious visitors often drop by
to view his collection,
they praise him for his gift,
but he insists that it isn’t he
who creates the shells,
he merely collects them.
Others take to this sport
of collecting shells,
trying to emulate his deeds,
scouting the coastline far and wide;
but only occasionally plucking
a half-decent shell from the sea.
It is during this mayhem
that the villagers notice
he has somewhat retreated.
He only seems to surface at sunset
––perhaps to avoid the crowds,
but although his output diminishes,
he still finds the odd shell
with a luminescent beauty
that astounds all.
Then one evening
he packs all his shells into a sack
and wanders off
to a remote region of the shore.
One by one he tosses them
back into the ocean,
when done, he turns his back
on the roaring sea
and walks towards the mountains.
Over the years, none of his shells
wash back to shore;
furthermore no new shells
are ever found in this town.
Some swear they have seen
the Shell Collector’s figure
in the distant mountains,
but others fiercely dispute this,
some grieve over his departure,
others claim he is a traitor.
But the sea misses him dearly,
and in response
has withheld all its treasures,
and instead spewed forth
seaweed, poisonous fish
and broken glass.
•••Damian Balassone’s work has appeared in a variety of Australian journals, magazines and e-zines including Overland, Arena Magazine, Eureka Street, Australian Rationalist, Lucid Rhythms (US) and Green Left Weekly.