Imperfect, beautiful like faceted blood. It came from India where they wash up on the shore. Thousands of them — the beads of sorrow. Little droplets that somehow became gems gathered by beggars who trade them for rice. Whenever I stared into its depths I felt overcome, for caught within my little gem was more misery and hope than one could fathom.
It frightened and inspired, and I kept it in my sack, a waxed yellow packet the size and shape of a razor blade. I’d stop and take it out and look at it. I did this so often it was no longer necessary to see what I was looking at. And because of this I can not say for certain when it disappeared.
I can still see it though. I see it on the foreheads of the women. In the poet’s hollow. I see it at the throat of a diva and in the palm of the deserter. Pressing against a wire fence. A drop of blood on a calico dress. I open my bundle and dump the contents in the furrows of the earth. Nothing — an old spoon, a rudder, the remains of a walkie-talkie. Spreading the cloth to rest upon I take breaths as long as the furrows. As if to quell the spirits; hold them from shaking and clanging.
— Patti Smith (Woolgathering)