Pearl

The raw pearl my mother gave to me, that I gave to you.

I carry it sometimes in my dreams, its memory swelling like a blister.

Forged from the blood of the Pacific, little grain, little ache on the tongue.

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If you held it in your mouth, it would be smooth, semen-colored, embryonic.

If you swallowed, it would slide down to the belly and take root there, the way I did once, niggling child listing in amnion, lumped silica smoothed to a sheen.

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If you were to hold the mollusk in your hand, place a knife at the base of the hinge.

In this way, the shell, misshapen pearl, can be pried open, separated from the meat there.

There is a taste of salty mucus, of rusted nails.

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Can you detect the fecal bloom of the oyster beds, the pearl of shit building in the lower tracts, blushing microbiome of the tides?

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Can you taste the life draining from the animal, the waters that flowed through, what was sifted and what remained, what chipped at the shell to release its tumorous iridescence?

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Can you siphon the past into gems, all the residues draining from sewers, dead leviathans clustered with hagfish, bodies of fishermen and sailors, their mothers’ grief engulfed by the sea?

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My own mother returned decades too late to hand me this pearl, uneven thing with its own kind of potential.

Her island crusted layer by layer from the sea, magma turned igneous, string of pearls draped along the Mariana Trench.

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Could she look east as a child and see a fire blooming in the nacreous skies over Bikini Atoll?

Did she think of a pearl?

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On whose sons did the fallout rain, whose daughters, pearls growing deep in their bodies?

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I think of the daughters never born to me, who will never receive this small, insignificant inheritance.

Rough pearl in a plastic envelope, from a highway gift shop in Hawai‘i.

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If you were to break it open and magnify the shards, they would appear structured, highly brittle, mineral platelets stacked like long boxes in a darkened warehouse.

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Warehouse of forgotten lives, of dead ancestors, lost mothers and children.

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Little speck, little star, disappearing in the folds of your hand.

What does the light do as it arcs along the silken surface?

What if all homelands are grains scattered in the sea?

 

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