Sea Pebbles: An Elegy

Dana Gioia

My love, how time makes hardness shine.
They come in every color, pure or mixed
gray-green of basalt, blood-soaked jasper, quartz,
granite and feldspar, even bits of glass,
smoothed by the patient jeweller of the tides.


Volcano-born, earthquake-quarried,
shaven by glaciers, wind-carved, heat-cracked,
stratified, speckled, bright in the wet surf—
no two alike, all torn from the dry land
tossed up in millions on this empty shore.


How small death seems among the rocks. It drifts
light as a splintered bone the tide uncovers.
It glints among the shattered oyster shells,
gutted by gulls, bleached by salt and sun—
the broken crockery of living things.


Cormorants glide across the quiet bay.
A falcon watches from the ridge, indifferent
to the burdens I have carried here.
No point in walking farther, so I sit,
hollow as driftwood, dead as any stone.

Sponsored by the Cunningham family

Dana Gioia, excerpt from "Sea Pebbles: An Elegy" from 99 Poems: New and Selected. Copyright © 2016 by Dana Gioia. Used with the permission of Dana Gioia and The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota,