By Richard Cambridge

I am a collector of beachglass
and have been one for many a season.
I can tell from a shard no larger
than my thumbnail--from the arc of its curve,
from its shape, weight and thickness, even
from the angle of its breaking--its origin
on a bottle: base, body, neck or rim.

And with each piece I find, I like to stop
and rest for a while as I turn it over
carefully between thumb and forefinger
noting its color: amber, green or clear;
its source: soda, beer, whisky, winebottle;
and its size: nip, pint, fifth, quart or magnum.
But the luster--its all in the luster!
Its got to be frosted like gumdrops:
no shine or clarity, but opaque.
And if its not perfect--
if there is a shine or a glitter
or if a rough edge catches my finger--
then I toss it back to the sea
as I would an undersized lobster
to be buffeted by the waves and sand
and harvested in another season.

These bits of colored glass that I find
are more dear to me than rubies, diamonds,
emeralds or semi-precious stones, and
I like to think what I would do with them:
I would make a necklace for a gypsy bride;
smith them in silver bracelets and send them
to every woman I have ever loved;
or make a mosaic of unknown design
in thanks for every poem I've ever written
and offer it to the wind, the sea and the sun.

This aimless path that I walk between bits
of broken glass is the only thing I know--
the only thing I hold on to. I will
be back for another seasons harvest.

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