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Poetry rocks

Six original poems, each about a stone; six pieces of jewellery, each made with that stone

November/December 2014

Blue moonstone by David Harsent

Not because I ask you to, but hold this stone in your mouth:
blue blush, a teardrop-cut…
It’s late in the day and you are lost to me, standing beneath

a sky empty of any light in a place I will never see. A north
wind comes in, a sudden shift
under your skin, as it might be a burrowing worm, as it might be a moth

settling on bark to grow invisible. Tongue it against your teeth:
that taste will come back to you
when your mouth is given over, when there’s unrepentant truth

in what you have to hear—must hear—when, in one stopped breath,
comes the certainty of loss,
being an ache in your finger bones, being sorrow first and last, a path

that will take you from where you are to the ends of the earth
under a rising moon, wyrt moon.
That blue will soak you then; that blue is a disguise for death.

Folklore has it that a moonstone held in the mouth will predict love’s outcome


Lapis lazuli by Imtiaz Dharker

If you thirst for blue beyond ultramarine, 
here is the blue that stains the artist’s hand,
lifted out of the most precious seam
in the generous heart of Badakhshan

to place an azure light in the Pharaoh’s eyes
after he is gone, lap at the Virgin’s cloak,
seep into the masjid walls. A prize
to protect the wearer, allow the hope

that a simple ore could save the prey
and shield the savaged heart from harm;
that in a broken land it could find a way
to wrap the child in sacred blue, a charm

or talisman to still the approaching drone,
if you could only mine the prayer inside the stone.


Opals by Fiona Sampson

Opals my grandmother loved, opals
    kept in musty boxes, velvet and dust
         and touch-me-not mysteries—

the stuffy interior out of Doctor Freud
    and my grandmother among her trophies
         sliding on the opal ring, sliding

the opal necklace between her fingers—something
    dirty, sexual almost in her pleasure,
         and the opals with their each-way facets

their hard-to-believe fairground glitter were dirty
    too, too foreign, vulgar even, I thought
         with a tremor I didn’t recognise

was sexual, was shame because I saw
    how the colours shone inside each like old coins
         in a vitrine, and how like old coins the stones

were stained by something, rumour or violence, she found thrilling:
    opals that are my birthstone, that I
         inherited with the rest of it—

tea service, couch, blue plush boxes
    the crooked glancing character of defect
         everything displayed like clues that afternoon

in the opulent dark flat
    south-coast England nineteen eighty-something
         gone like a summer storm above the sea.

 

Morganite by Swithun Cooper

How does she choose us, the men whose shadows 
she moves through as we travel to the city?
She is flush; she is light striking copper; her grip
leaves our wrists bruised pink as the raised print on £50 notes.
I know you have felt her already. Good luck.
You must go where she takes you. Me? She led me to the stocks:
past marble engravings to walls of darkened glass
behind which I prospered. I’m minted now. I’m marked.
I work through the night, and as the markets twist
to keep her around me I offer up gifts:
a clouded gilt mirror, a rosewood planchette,
two blush-coloured stones from an antique jewellery set.
I know you have felt her. I have seen you cross the street 
and roll up your cuff. I have seen the skin beneath.
I know you have heard it—halfway through a deal,
her voice on a phone you have yet to dial.
I know that right now she is pressing on your pulse.
I know she does not really choose us, the men of the city.
We choose to come here, to the places we know she will be.

Named after the banker J.P. Morgan, morganite should 
be carried for good luck in finance

Amethyst by Michael Symmons Roberts

So help me, there is nothing
—not one word—I can say
that would be solid as a ring.

If I wrote you a sonnet,
would your faith in it outlast
the fourteenth line? I am no cynic,

yet since I bought this purple
gem for you, geologists in China,
Russian miners, cavers in Brazil

have struck rich plum-blood seams
and made my ring a fairground prize.
Ink under skin? What form,

what amber or aspic can hold
as prices rise and fall? The ground
shifts beneath our soles,

no trace of love will ever be
combed from my ashes,
deciphered from my DNA.

And yet my love for you is sure,
until a cache of greater love
is found, so help me, lover.

Emerald by Ruth Padel

Below is the same as above, says the Emerald Tablet 
Jung saw in a dream. You’ve passed Security,
you’re entering the mine. You were looking for love:
try the mysteries of earth. Put on the waterproof,
hard hat, rubber boots and gloves. You found it
in the Vedas: Emeralds bring luck.

You’re winched into the dark on a platform-cage
through a rushing flood. Can you trust the chains?
The water’s warm, the motor rattles, the temperature
is hot enough to suffocate, stop Orpheus in his song.
Forty metres. Forty more. At the bottom,
a sauna labyrinth of carbon, formed

by the tectonic shunt that made the Andes.
Torchlight. Blackened faces. They don’t get salaries,
they’re paid for what they find. Do you, the adept
of “Theatrum Chemicum”, desire the formula,
the liquid and gas chromium and vanadium
crystallised to hexagon in boiling brine?

You slosh, crouching, through water.
A hundred claw-points tease the roof,
the pitch-black honeycomb
of tunnels haunted by a glint-fire ghost
of absinthe, Nefertiti, Melusine.
The call comes Here! and everyone stampedes.

A thousand jackhammers, ten thousand ricochets
and a raw rock-face brocade of dazzle-green.
Any pick-swing could make your fortune.
You’re surrounded, oxygen levels plummet
and you don’t care for this is the myth
of all myths. Jackpot. The suddenly answered prayer.

Overhead, slow sunrise stipples emerald slopes
of cloud forest and sugar cane, to rose.
Children trawl abandoned shafts. Women search
breast-deep in the river for a glimpse of the Enchanter.
Streaked faces, wild eyes in a panda blur— 
that’s all of us in our anonymities and hope.

Below is the same as above. Emerald is wire
fencing, a guard with pump-action shotgun,
the paramilitaries of Víctor Carranza, cartel king,
and the black mud dance of chaos. Children know
you reach the Emerald City only on ruby slippers.
Emerald is blood. But somehow you make it back

to the market-place. La Candelaria looks
like any square: small lunch-bars and glum
traffic. The emeralds are invisible, carried in twists
of paper to open air. The only light dealers trust
to check for flux-grown polymers, synthetic glass
from labs in California, is the Incas’ naked sun.

Emerald is heart of alchemy. Ferny bubbles,
mystical imperfections, flaws that make each stone
unique, trapped in mineral as it forms
like fantasies embedded in the soul.
Emerald is spring, translating underworld
to stony idioms of the brain,

a kingfisher reflected in the secret bowl
of ocean. Verdant but easily chipped,
healing but poison, colour of Venus, birthstone of May,
but also the green-eyed monster. Double-edged.
Watch a dealer hold new facets to the sky. It’s a risk,
renewing dreams. It’s putting yourself through hell

like Orpheus, not knowing what you’ll lose.
In one small blazing stone—as green as grass,
as Acamar or Rastaban, the brightest stars—
you face what transformation means. Ask
the commissionista. This is the life
you’ll pay for. Open his paper. Choose.

Readers' comment

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fionapitt-kethley - November 12th 2015

Don´t know why they didn´t ask me as I have written loads of poems about minerals and mines and am an avid collector. I cover 10 different stones in my pamphlet, Mineral Adventures, which is published by Rack Press.