April 9, 2008

Pearl by Sheila Black

Posted in poetry tagged , at 5:17 pm by placeinthestars

Pearl

The mold has already tufted the strawberries
left in their open carton on the table
since morning. And then there was the hose
leaking over the dry earth tonight when I stepped
from the hot car, the mud in rivulets,
and the clumps of new grass,
here and there a jagged yellow flower.
And this is how I try to love the world,
the smooth seal curve of my son’s furred back,
my daughter chewing on the ends of her hair
her thighs already widening, spreading
out of girlhood and the fuzz on her cheeks
like the fuzz on a ripe peach. My friend Merrill’s
wife writes that the cancer has spread,
his kidneys have failed. He takes dialysis
four hours three days a week. The last time
I was in his house he had filled a large gray vase
with cut threads of ocotillo, the spongy stems
and above the violent flowers like pinned birds,
cut tongues or tethered hands striving to reach up and away
from the earth. The vase was centered on the smooth
pine of his dining room table. He had prepared
chicken with lemon grass, Thai chiles, fragrant shards
of coconut served with ice-cold beer. We filled
our glass steins until they trembled, the golden
liquid, the foam moustaching our upper lips,
and the curve of dishes and spoons passing from
hand to hand. What do we do when we outlive
the wholeness of the body? All night I see him
in the dark-lit curves of windows, in the polished
ceramic bowls, the glint and flicker of the light
of things passed around, bouncing from surface
to surface, the gathering of the light like the
girl in Vermeer’s Pearl Earring, turning in the black
doorway. The pearl contained, numinous, outside this.

~Sheila Black

***

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