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).