I seem to have a fascination with pearls. Not in real life so much as in a symbolic way–they keep popping up in my poetry, time and time again. By now everyone knows how pearls are made, a tiny irritating grain of sand or shell that an oyster deposits calcium carbonate onto over and over again in an effort to protect itself. What captures me, and I think other people as well, is the idea that something so beautiful and valuable is formed out of an oyster’s discomfort–and I have no idea just how much pain an oyster can feel, really, but at the very least it’s not a happy situation for the poor creature. It is literally impossible that a genuine pearl be created out of a good situation. This has a very personal and profound application for me due to the chronic pain I live with every day. I don’t know that I’ve produced any pearls of value yet, but there is the hope that someday I will look back at my life with a handful of pearls and believe that it was worth it to become something beautiful. I wrote the following poem about that.
Dialogue with Myself at 80 Years
I crave your wisdom.
I want to see the pearls
that my tears turn into, gathered
in the cup of your time-weary hands,
the small gems of irritated hope.
I will not dare to ask you
for the future
—my need for certainty is no right
to change who you might become—
but I want the weight of your life,
the crystallized promise of my pain,
in my palms
for the decisions I must face.