Perhaps against no other gem has the bigotry of
superstitious ignorance so prevailed as against the
— Isadore Kozminsky, The Magic and Science of Jewels and Stones.
The names could be those of pedigree stallions:
Harlequin, Contra Luz.
With reds like rubble on fire
or a pair of pink-silk ballet shoes
across a stone floor
by their ribbons.
The blue-greens are half air, half ocean
the eyes of knowing tom cats
peeking from inside an aurora australis.
The gem in my ring is dying
through my neglect.
Composed of a measure of water
opals must be worn habitually
so they might feast
on sweaty fingers
or the nape of a neck.
They need natural light
to show their true colours.
That is all they are, really:
thirst and ball-bearing tricks
of reflection, refraction.
My sister, on her deathbed insisted
I inherit the ring to prove
our family legend wrong:
that from that point on
no death would follow
of its being worn.
I took possession to appease her
but have had to invent
my own rules of engagement
as I did with boys all those years ago.
First date, external touches
of the closed velvet case.
a cautious lifting of the lid.
I can’t or won’t
go all the way.
The opal in my ring is dying:
losing the potency of its colours
How can I blame it for wanting to thrive?
The multicoloured eye
in the fairytale oval mirror
of its gold setting
mocks me as frigid, or glares
a chromatic challenge
or glints in the visual pheromones
bedroom light on jigsaw colour.
It aches for me to pick it up, slip it slowly
past the tip of my finger
all the way down the length of the shaft.
Only then would we really
know each other.
And tomorrow, we could walk together in the sun.
It’s dangerous, staring into the box too long
knowing my opal ring
has already forgotten my sister.
Knowing that if I reach out
and do this one small thing
in return, it promises to love me
New book out from Judy Johson courtesy of Walleah Press in Tasmania!
I heard Judy read this poem up in Newcastle and it really got to me and I was astonished when Judy told me it had never found a good home in a magazine or journal before it was tucked away into the book. But that can happen to even the most well-endowed of poems, they go out and about but they just don’t catch someone’s eye. They are read after midnight at the end of a long run of reading, or they get tucked under the in tray and don’t get read at all, or just as the editor sits to read them the window cleaner arrives, or someone rings with a thorny question, or it’s lunchtime. And that’s that. They don’t get picked up.