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From the sands that fringe the ocean
he flings flat stones
skimming over rippling wavelets
leaping through drops of foam
appearing, vanishing, each stretching bounce
smaller, curving away from the one before
hypnotized by the boredom of sea and sky
melting together he counts the bounces
five, four, seven, searches for a new pebble
―there are more stones cry the gulls in the wind
more stones than you can imagine
become a stone!


Dipping into half forgotten places he finds
a fragment, polished like jade; glimmerings in
mossy depths reflect a booth, a straw chair
an old woman eating.  Who are you woman
why are you sitting in my stone?  I am Babushka
look; she sheds her shells one by one becoming
smaller, younger, brighter; peering inside her
she smelled like freshly shaven Linden wood.
The youngest tiniest one was not of wood at all
but a teardrop of a porcelain doll with painted
hazelnut eyes and a smile wide as a seagull.


The gull was gliding over the waves diving and
bobbing for fish in the spume, now and then
plunging through the salty spray to emerge

with a wriggling fish in its beak.  Babushka was
eating sardines and Russian bread, spearing them with
a cake fork. After each bite she licked her lips

and smiled at him. Look at this one he has a stone
in his mouth perhaps he was netted while nibbling
at an oyster.  She performed a little dance over
the waves pirouetting and curtseying like a ballerina.


In the closeness of the shell, the pearl grows
opalescent rainbow layers, larger, belly bulging
quiet perfection, until in a knife scrape instant
she was hoisted off the rock in a fisherman’s coarse sack


Looking closer he could see the porcelain ballerina
skimming like a flat stone over the stage
skimming, skimming then lifted like a  gull’s feather
soaring on his outstretched arm, music cascading
around them like a string of pearls.


Babushka laughed at him standing there
gazing at the decorated rainbow rows
splintered in a hundred lacquered costume variations
choose one she challenged, he spun in indecision.
this one is lovely, look I’ll give you a special price
she wrapped it in newspaper smelling vaguely
of sardines; carried home across the continents
across the seas, the doll now sits on the mantelpiece
smiling at his grandchildren

As they open her up, layer by layer
to seek the perfect baby pearl
buried in her heart

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© Johnmichael Simon



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