Ivory Beads by Christine Craig

I am pleased to share Christine Craig's Ivory Beads, from her latest collection, All Things Bright & Quadrille for Tigers

Ivory Beads

Creamy white curls of elephant tusks,
ivory beads from Ethiopia.
My father played the piano -
jazz, swing - it had a round, fat
rousing sound; the energy of it
stayed long after the notes fell silent.

As a prim adolescent I stumbled
over Bach, became overly delicate
with Mozart and, stroking the ivories
thought romance pure, abstract
flowing through time
remote from reality.

Cool spheres of white, the devout
roll their fingers caressing the
Hail Marys the Lord is with thee,
or hang them crucified on a nail
by the bed in one-room shacks
from Peru to Portugal, or rest them
gleamingly by bible and lace mantilla
in the perfumed homes
of the blessed rich.

Ivory beads from Ethiopia
children's teeth rot in the drought
mother's tears glitter among the flies;
the continent of all resources sends
precious trinkets to the West.
Thank you for the gift of ivory beads;
my conscience is troubled, they
slip so cool around my neck.

Copyright Christine Craig 2010

Poems. All Things Bright & Quadrille for Tigers. Peepal Tree Press Ltd. 2010.

Reprinted with author's permission.

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