blackbirdonline journalSpring 2021  Vol. 20  No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Pearl Ghazal

My mother’s mother was named for a bright shining; my mother, a pearl.
Myself: dark floor of heaven, across which the moon rolls like a pearl.

As a child, I tried to die. The school called my mother and my mother called me
to say Sometimes I wish you had never been born. Before I was born, I was a pearl

in my mother’s pocket. I try to imagine what it was like to be inside
my mother inside her mother, try to see myself in the girl flashing pearly

-whites in a sepia photograph in the last year of her twenties, imagine myself part of some light
shining through her—the layer beneath the layer of the pearl

which makes it glow. My grandmother was born in June, like me, twin
Geminis fifty-five years apart. Our birthstone: pearl,

which is not a stone but a gem, queen of them, once valued beyond measure.
In the Parable of the Pearl of Great Price, heaven is the pearl

for which the merchant trades all else to attain. Momme
is a Japanese unit of weight—3.75 grams—used to value loose or stringed pearls,

pronounced mommy. Perhaps foolishly, I’ve assumed, because I was born
first, my mother wanted me. Wise enough, never asked. A pearl

is made in defense against an irritant, a parasite
or fragment invading the mollusk’s soft center. Mother of pearl

is named such for a root of mother—modder—means sediment, dregs,
filth. Briefly, I mothered; what I made dropped from me like pearls

from a strand cut. Before my mother was
my mother, her hair was black as Cleopatra’s, clever woman who dropped her pearl

earring into vinegar and swallowed its sediment, for a bet. I am the mother of no one
ever born. My no one was due in June. Eve, the first mother, wept pearls

when she was cast from heaven. My mother never wept
in front of me, was never soft, hardened early. She lost her mother like a pearl

earring as a teen. Hardly had one before that. Despair for weeks, years,
then—Snow glittered in the yard like crushed pearls.

As a girl, I asked my mother where her mother was. My mother turned to look
at me, her look blank as the face of a pearl,

which never ends. Hard as my mother is, I’ve always wanted her
life to be easier, so mine might be. Grief is an heirloom, a rope of pearls

handed down. Oh girls, where were your mothers. I am a woman now trying
to live. For weeks, years. I daughter my mother. I treasure my little pearl

of foolishness, the belief I may be different. May survive the dark dark
as my mother’s hair. May string a life of days like pearls,

hoard them preciously. Margaret, are you grieving? Hurt shines on both sides,
like heaven. I call my mother. All day the sky comes down. Leaves, on the window, pearls.  

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