A Glass-Ribbed Nest

Marianne Moore

From The Kenyon Review, Summer 1940, Vol. II, No. 3.

    For authorities whose hopes
are shaped by mercenaries?
    Writers entrapped by
    teatime fame and by
commuters’ comforts? Not for these
    the paper nautilus
constructs her thin glass shell.

    Giving her perishable
souvenir of hope, a dull
    white outside and smooth-
    edged inner side as
glossy as the sea, the watchful
    animal takes charge of
    it herself and scarcely

    leaves it till the eggs are hatched.
Buried eight-fold in her eight
    arms, for she is in
    a sense a devil-
fish, her glass ramshorn-cradled freight
    is hid but is not crushed.
    As Hercules, bitten

    by a crab loyal to the hydra,
was hindered to succeed,
    the intensively
    watched eggs coming from
the shell, free it when they are freed,—
    leaving its wasp-nest flaws
    of white on white, and close-

laid Ionic chiton-folds
like the lines in the mane of
    a Parthenon horse,
    round which the arms had
wound themselves as if they knew love
    is the only fortress
    strong enough to trust to.

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