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For my daughter, Margaret

"The love of the moon-goddess for a primeval being seemsto be a very old account of the origin of the human race."
          — C.Kerenyi

In a hidden airless chest there is no fire,
so that is where the mother hid the brand.
No fire in this chest, shut tight and gnarled,
fixed fast to rusted wires in a rigid bed.
Persisting over lamellate gills to inspire,
to pull the cold dark in, dissolve the salt,
eat, breathe, expire, express, caress the mound
of livid softness, lathe the smooth hard clean.

The all-where wet, like wind, pulls up, exerts
cold pressure on resistant bonds; subsumes,
desires the light that loves it, longs to fly.
The round, hard, bright untouchable invites
the dark with dark to furl and seal, declines
to yield, embraces and enthralls the dark
that holds and drowns it when they kiss at last.

Then cold brand, worm-like, pierces, sticks, and turns,
etching a steady pain in the dark chest.
The fire, unlit but burning, scars the smooth
inside, unseen, begins the life work, dies
in bed on pillow soft, encased in slip,
anodized in light and tumbled smooth.
Inside the night the light grows round and hard,
bathed in salt silence, soft, incessantly.
part and no part, to emerge and give the moon
her light back, sing to joy, forget the dark,
the cold, the cage, the silence, and the shell.

I am encloistered, cowled and bound, stuck hard.
My womb is moonlight, cauterized by love.
I am the mother of pearl.

(Pearl Oyster: meleagrina margaritifera)

      — Kathleen B. Henderson

Hear Kathleen B. Henderson read 'Nacre'