Globe Without Goodbye – The Cave (3)

This story begins with Globe Without Goodbye – The Shore (1).  To access installments in narrative sequence, click on an entry title, then click on “Next” at the end of that installment.

 

Jeffrey approached the cave slowly. After he had looked at gray for so long, the peach rock of the cave, with its shallow tan cracks that turned mahogany as they ran deeper, blazed in his vision. Then he realized the world around the cave had changed. No more gray sky; now, not a single cloud marred its blue. Nor did a sun, moon, or stars. Beneath this impossible sky, the weathered surfaces of the dunes were the palest brown possible. Jeffrey turned to look at the ocean, and whistled involuntarily.

He had never seen anything so beautiful before. The water jumped with color! Its hues ran from the deepest depths of midnight blue up into teal, and then higher, brighter, striated with lines of electric blue. Jeffrey felt like he could stare at these vibrant ocean blues for the rest of his life, until he remembered the cave, and felt curious about what its darkness hid.   He should be able to fit through its entrance.

He looked again at the cave. Its shape reminded him of cartoon depictions of igloos. Was it a natural formation? He looked hard at it, but could not make up his mind on this point. Its isolation at the water’s edge prevented it from looking truly natural, but its craggy surface didn’t seem crafted either. Rocks around its base prevented him from discerning whether it welled up from beneath the sand, or if it had been constructed.  He did not find its appearance threatening, but at the same time he felt no more desire to laugh; the cave’s mystery constrained his sense of freedom. The regal ocean behind him still did not make the susurrate sounds that it should. The calm remained eerie. As he considered the cave, he felt somber.

The thought occurred to Jeffrey to look back the way that he had come. Would he see his tracks? He did, and he felt relief.   When he had ran more enthusiastically, he had torn up the sand. Observing the distance between his tracks and the beautiful water, he reasoned that the tide had yet to come in.  How low could the tide sink in this dream, he wondered. More importantly, what was inside the cave? It looked serene, almost friendly despite its mystery. It might be a good place to rest after his long run.

In case the cave’s appearance concealed a threat, Jeffrey picked a fist-sized rock out of the sand. The dark tan of the damp rock contrasted with his pale hand. He didn’t particularly want to enter the cave armed, but his circumstances required prudence. If he died in this dream, what would happen to him in real life? The blackness beyond the cave’s entrance hovered, waiting for him.

Thank you for reading!  Coming up next week: Jeffrey enters the cave, where he discovers a doll – and a skeleton…

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How Lyn Writes Poetry: “Mother-of-Pearl”

What holds more beauty –
color,
or
lustre?
Mother-of-pearl holds pastel colors, and it shines
like the serene patina of heaven,
yet pearl,
so pale, so stark in its white hue
gets labeled a precious stone
threaded around the haughty necks
of opera matrons,
funereal in their monochromatic splendor.
Mother-of-pearl, I have never heard you counted
even among the semiprecious.
Agate and amethyst turn up their mineral noses
at your smooth sheen,
your organic love coat and pink acceptance of the waves.
Perhaps they see the brown shabbiness of your outer shell
and feel the repulsion of the orchid for the clover.
The orchid, holding no sweet nectar for children to suck.
I hear some orchids have a breath
that reeks of rotting meat and draws greedy flies.
Mother-of-pearl, whisper your secrets to the abalone shells
that litter jewelry cases in antique stores.
Trimmed with silver for rings and brooches,
the corpses of the abalones
feel your naked pain.
I will love you.
I will understand.

Commentary

When I first conceptualized writing a poem about mother-of-pearl, I considered doing a play on words: writing a poem with a double meaning, so that the reader would walk through the entire poem thinking it was about the substance mother-of-pearl and then in the very last line discovering that it actually was about a human woman with a daughter named Pearl. It wasn’t long before I decided that such a poem would be a bit too difficult for me to pull off without more concentration and sustained effort than I was willing to put in at the time, and instead decided to harvest some slightly-lower hanging artistic fruit. I would write a poem that drew parallels between the substance mother-of-pearl, and the life of my own mother, and if I could work it in, I would make some allusions to one of my favorite religious figures (Mary, the Virgin Mother of God – I’ve never been Catholic, but I’m not going to deny that the idea of God having a mother is pretty powerful psychologically).

I’m satisfied with the result. “Mother-of-Pearl” is not the best poem I’ve ever written, but I think it works well. The central conceit of the poem is that something considered entirely ordinary by mass culture can have more beauty than something prized because it is rare. I do consider the iridescence of mother-of-pearl more beautiful than many examples of precious gems, and while my mother is not famous and in many respects has a life story typical of a smart, determined woman who surfed the Second Wave of feminism, I love her more than many of the idealized women of history. To continue drawing the parallel, according to the Bible, Mary the Virgin Mother was not anybody special except in her devotion to her God.

Specific Lines Worth Commenting On:

  • it shines / like the serene patina of heaven: I like this line because a patina is a coating and therefore “patina of heaven” could refer to either a coating of something on heaven, or to the idea that heaven is a coating of something, onto something else. What would coat heaven? What would heaven cover over? This was not the poem in which to explore that image, but the seed has been planted and I might write more about this image in another piece.
  • Agate and amethyst turn up their mineral noses: I ran this poem by my mother before posting it here, to make sure she was not offended by my implication about her ordinariness. She really liked this line. I didn’t think it was anything special, but that’s art for you.
  • your organic love coat and pink acceptance of the waves: This is my favorite line in the poem. I feel it’s a powerful and poetic image that does a good job of reflecting in words the way mother-of-pearl works on the eyes.
  • the repulsion of the orchid for the clover: I love orchids, particularly yellow cymbidia, but they don’t produce an attractive scent, and as a child I always used to de-fluff orchids to get the taste of nectar at the base of the fluff, which is something you can’t do with an orchid. Rare does not automatically equal better, and that’s the point of the poem.
  • the abalone shells / that litter jewelry cases… the corpses of the abalone / feel your naked pain: These lines were an attempt to express how I feel in relation to my mother. Abalone is a similar, related substance to mother-of-pearl, but not the same…