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Shell White, and Tyrian Purple, and Ultramarine

From: New England Review
Volume 34, Number 1, 2013
pp. 160-162 | 10.1353/ner.2013.0042

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Shell White

The monk grinds bleach from mollusk-carapace,
pestles his basket of beach-combed sea-crumbs
so limed hides might beam brighter for the Lamb.
Before he paints incipit, interlace,
he blenches before the page as if it were the face
that he might hope to glimpse in prayer, numb
within the blizzard of love that strikes dumb
the heart, shell-shocked before the story’s grace.
Eyeful of Snow, Dazzling Blank—
I believed you once the union of all light
and pled the searing of my eyes. Then I blinked.
My wool-puller, my white-hot blind spot,
I’m washed up, shelled out, your thankless monk,
or else the page you’d scour, whitewash, illuminate.

Tyrian Purple

Because a parchment plain and pale as sails
can’t avail gold ink, and because raw silk
for empresses must not be the shade of chalk,
the murex-fishers bait their wicker creels
with cockles, catch and crush the spiny snails,
then cut the glands out for two drops of milk—
black as clotted blood, expelled when the whelks balk—
to make the putrid dye worth more than pearls.
Fisher of Men, king of the purple page,
before you died, gore matted in your hair,
men flogged you, wound you in a purple rag.
Ascended, enthroned in Caesar’s attire,
your mantle now redeems you with his wage:
twelve thousand deaths upon the shores of Tyre.


Beyond the blue scum sea, miners assault
lazurite and pyrite, a blue-gold beam,
pry from limestone caverns the lapis seam
for the shade that painters’ patrons so exalt
to hem the Virgin’s mantle, foam the Vault
where she’s fixed like a lodestar or a gem.
Mixed with wax and turpentine, by the dram
this powdered stone costs more than gold or salt.
Stella Maris, Blue-Eyed Lady of the Whale-
Road, God tore your veil into the seas
that hide Leviathan’s blue fluke and flail,
the skies that hold the sailor’s compass
made of ice-trussed stars. You’re vessel of the swell,
and all the deep will be your swaddling clothes.

Melissa Range  

Melissa Range’s first book of poems, Horse and Rider (Texas Tech University Press), won the 2010 Walt McDonald Prize in Poetry. Range is the recipient of fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her poems have recently appeared in 32 Poems, Image, and Subtropics, and have been anthologized in Best American Spiritual Writing. Originally from East Tennessee, she’s finishing up her Ph.D. in English at the University of Missouri.

Copyright © 2013 Middlebury College Publications
Project MUSE® - View Citation
Melissa Range. "Shell White, and Tyrian Purple, and Ultramarine." New England Review 34.1 (2013): 160-162. Project MUSE. Web. 8 Jul. 2013. <http://muse.jhu.edu/>.
Range, M.(2013). Shell White, and Tyrian Purple, and Ultramarine. New England Review 34(1), 160-162. Middlebury College. Retrieved July 8, 2013, from Project MUSE database.
Melissa Range. "Shell White, and Tyrian Purple, and Ultramarine." New England Review 34, no. 1 (2013): 160-162. http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed July 8, 2013).
T1 - Shell White, and Tyrian Purple, and Ultramarine
A1 - Melissa Range
JF - New England Review
VL - 34
IS - 1
SP - 160
EP - 162
PY - 2013
PB - Middlebury College
SN - 2161-9131
UR - http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/new_england_review/v034/34.1.range.html
N1 - Volume 34, Number 1, 2013
ER -


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