Turquoise, for Amal

I started this poem in twenty eighteen.
Twenty eighteen, Amal! In December, for your birthday.
Writing out the numbers this way makes it feel ethereal,
or, I don’t know, at least old-fangled somehow,
like a ring made of copper, its shank rubbed thin
against worrying skin, cracked turquoise set in a pronged head.
Sure, the metal will green your finger with its verdigris sheen,
But there’s nothing like copper for that fine antique feeling
of cathedral and conduit and enchantment.

I wanted to write “Turquoise” because it is our birthstone.
The only one I knew I had, growing up in Arizona.
Later came lapis, came topaz, came tanzanite and zircon.
I used to think turquoise boring, because lumpen and opaque.
But few things are boring these days. Much of my childhood
I consider wasted in ignoring everything I thought unbeautiful.
Now, though, what isn’t freshly fascinating in its haecceity?
Now I love turquoise, not least because it makes me think of you.

Turquoise is nothing but itself.
Neither blue nor green. Neither sky nor sea nor vanishing lea,
but a piece of mineral Earth, whose metals and crystals are abundant
because Earth’s lifeforms are complex.
I never knew until this year–until twenty twenty-one, that is–
that other planets less rich in animal life than ours are also mineral-poor.
I didn’t know how rare, in all the universe, is turquoise.
As singular as we bewildered mammals spinning in the dark,
writing verse as scarce as we.

I’m glad for this uncommon chance, to sit at shuttered window,
lamp to my left, at this old thrift store desk I’ve covered
in new stickers. Grateful to dust off “Turquoise” (mere title and dedication)
three years dormant in my Drafts folder, and smash it open like a robin’s egg.

I researched turquoise just now. Just now.
A “hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum.”
Imagine my delight! I laughed inwardly, but kept typing.
Referencing copper in my first stanza, I did not know that fact.
No, I was thinking of Jane Austen’s ring.
I saw it in a magazine. The urge to impulse-shop was strong.
That slender thing, your finger, your birthday, December.
(We are all December babies, you and Jane and I.)
But hers was set in gold, not copper. And a replica’s a gimmick.
Gimcrack.
A gorgeous knickknack that won’t nearly knock your heart
to flights of white-breasted nuthatches like that line right there just did.

Started December 2018
Finished November 2021
For your birthday, December 13th 2021


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