Monthly Archives: February 2012

I Had a Ruby

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)

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