Its coarse name belies this silken treasure,
with iridescent dome and spiral apse.
Imagination slips in with pleasure,
to contemplate an opus like blown glass.

Perhaps a queen lived here (no plain pauper,)
within these walls of vaulted pedigree,
with sheets of silk moiré, pearl-lined coffer,
and deep in strains of Handel’s symphony.

But if a pauper, she was quite clever—
as well, a soul of generosity—
to create such beauty, and forever
bequeath to us the mystery of the sea.

But does it work? Ask children passing near.
Just listen! All of Time is what you hear.



Sally Sandler is a writer and graduate of the University of Michigan. She lives in San Diego, California.

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10 Responses

  1. Peter Hartley

    Very evocative and the poem has good imagery. But Handel didn’t compose any symphonies as we ordinarily understand the word, did he? He was a bit too early. The so-called “Father of the Symphony” was Haydn, so perhaps you could alter Handel to Haydn?

    • Evan Mantyk

      Mr. Hartley, I think she is probably thinking of Handel’s Water Music due to the conch shell theme.

      • Peter Hartley

        Mr Mantyk – And conch shells are indeed found in the Thames upon which the Water Music was first performed! The so-called Water Music, though, as you will know, is an instrumental suite. But it would be a pity to let this get in the way of a good poem.

  2. Sultana Raza

    Lovely and evocative imagery. Loved the clever use of words, married to this concept of timelessness.

  3. C.B. Anderson

    Conch shells in England?! I thought they were tropical. Perhaps they are being conflated here with whelks, which would be a natural mistake. And indeed, though technically uneven (unless one regards it as purely syllabic verse) the poem is very nice indeed.

    • Peter Hartley

      CBA – Not native to UK, as you say, but found by mudlarks on the Thames, in ballast possibly dumped by ships from the Bahamas.

  4. James A. Tweedie

    Sally, I like your poem very much. I felt as if I was sharing in your innermost musings and found them quite entertaining. I had never thought of the word “conch” as being coarse, but, of course (pun intended) it is indeed a ironically harsh word for what is often a delicate shell.

    Peter, I like what you said re Handel and the word symphony, but the word also has a natural, non-technical meaning which, for me at least, worked quite well. A synonymous word, “euphony,” was used by Amy Foreman not too long ago, a word that would also fit in well here.

    Conch shells in the Thames? I love it when I learn something new in the comments!

    • Peter Hartley

      James, I do know that rarer meaning of “symphony” from the Greek for “together sound”, but it just didn’t occur to me that it would be used in that sense. As soon as I think “Handel” I think sacred oratorio, Semele (a hybrid) and more Italian operas than you could shake a stick at (nearly forty boxed sets of which, on vinyl, I still have languishing in our box-room). But of course you are right, and either by accident or design the “Handel Symphony” is born. I certainly give it more credence than John Cage’s concerto for bugle and glockenspiel. PS have a great time in the Hebrid Isles!

  5. James A. Tweedie

    Peter , At the moment I am in Dingle, Ireland. On my way from one heaven to another . . .


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