On Disappearing

Yesterday, I found an empty turtle shell

On a leaf-littered trail by the ancient river.

Light flooded the inside

Like a tunnel through a yellow-painted mountain.

My eyes said, “No one is home”

And yet, a part of me was unconvinced.

Holding my breath, I bent down to pick it up

Hand and body ready to retract.


How often do I live this way —

Frightened to see what’s really here?

Scared to reach toward what I do not know?

Eager to hide from the truth?


Smooth and heavy in my cupped hand

The carapace was picked-clean

Vertebrae resembling some mystical symbol;

A rune, a spell, a skeleton key.

All I know is this:

There was movement within that vacant shell.

A gentle lifeforce.

A flowing river.

The bones of an unknown song.


Today, the shell sits on my bookshelf

And I shiver each time I walk by

Half-wondering when invisible legs

will carry it along. 


This subtle haunting will continue for weeks

Until, one day, the song becomes clear:

Death is not real.

We’re all just learning how

To lay down our armor

Embody the current

Disappear into the light.

— Ashley Walshe

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