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ISSUE:  Winter 1989

Four pearls in an envelope.
My mother never says
what they mean to her. Someone
found them, diving off the coast
and left them with a desk clerk
for her. Venezuela, 1936.
No message. She wanted
to know and stayed another year.
No one came, and she
packed up, took the plain envelope
she had no one to thank for.
She looked back on that broad-coved coast
until ginger and palms gave in to the sea.

She has a ring with two pearls
she never wears; I keep mine
in a desk drawer—”difficult
adornment, sometimes dangerous,”
tradition says. She thinks it comes
from the way grains of sand find their way
into shells and wrest acceptance,
but she’ll only say pearls keep
the light. The clear water someone
swam through doesn’t come alive in them,
and what she has to say
has no resolve finished when she talks
of leaving hers to someone.


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