Most of us in Sonoma County live close enough to the coast to make beach going a regular activity. What the sea offers us is a break from our everyday lives.

The vivid blue ocean, the sharp cry of seagulls and the feel of wet sand on bare feet. Who hasn’t walked a stretch of beach, eyes down, in search of treasure like the bright blue or green glint of sea glass?

And then, upon finding it, slipped it into our pocket as a smooth, cool reminded of the sea itself? Hard to imagine how something this softened could have been sharp as glass.

Gwynn O’Gara, former poet laureate of Sonoma County, uses its beauty in her powerful poem, “Let Me Be Beautiful Like Sea Glass.” Each line begins with the repetition of the word “let.” This practice is called anaphora, in which the repeated word acts almost like a chant or a prayer that carries us back to a thought or idea.

In O’Gara’s poem, the speaker is asking to become more like sea glass; not just the finished smooth glass, but also the rough and tumble of transformation. She wants her “slick surface” to “coarsen till it’s crushed to bits” and for “the waves to love (her) in their rough way.” Isn’t that how we find a way to understand what is beautiful in ourselves? By loving even the rough parts as they’ve been smoothed by time? By hoping we become “smooth enough to be rubbed by small fingers and slipped inside a pocket or a bowl?”

“Let Me Be Beautiful Like Sea Glass”

by Gwynn O’Gara

Let my edges that cut be stroked by sand and salt

let my slick surface coarsen till it’s crushed to bits

let my colors soften as they scrape the bottom

let the waves love me in their rough way

let me be changed by that love

let me not forget I held another

yet fully inhabit my particularity

let me be smooth enough to be rubbed by small

fingers and slipped inside a pocket or a bowl

let me prove that beauty is born

when something breaks.

Iris Jamahl Dunkle is this year’s Sonoma County poet laureate. Contact her at iris.dunkle@gmail.com.