The Amber Agate* 32 lines


Pond, lake, cove, creek,

tropical lagoon or ocean overlook,

sluices under brush running deep,

even curbside plash after city rain--


it was common for my grandpa

to be arrested when confronted

with a pool of placid water.

The quality of chrism was immaterial.


He slid into a ritual a dozen times

familiar. His head would tilt until

his face became so fixed the axis

of his torso glided through the surface.


When his shoulders sank, we knew

he was lost until his bones awoke

when his thirst was slaked.

Though posthumously a vein


of family conversation, his

distraction brooked no easy issue--

some past reflection of his fullness

or symbol of an early love awry


or balm against the loneliness

behind his eyes. But I knew

differently. One day fishing out

a possum deep in Cochran's well,


he found an amber agate. When it

touched the sun in his finger roll,

it danced against his only golden tooth

and opened down the shaft a smile


I had forgotten until it broke

his lips again the night he died

and spilled out the secret seam

inside those silent seizures.


Jerome L. McElroy


*Accepted in Flying Island 6(2)(July 1998).