poem28 Mar 2016 08:55 am


Her grandmother would nurture them,
teasing them out from beneath stones,
unsnagging them from damp moss.
She’d keep them in her apron pockets,
which were always damp. “These tiny
thingeens are ancient creatures of the sea.
So ye must keep them moist, girleen.
Otherwise they’ll dry out. They’re only tiny now
because their seas have long vanished.
But keep them with you and their seas will return.”

Grandmother kept them safe there in her apron for hours.
Then would let them go again. But before letting them go
she’d hold them on the tip of her forefinger
and lift them up to the sunlight. Then she’d bid
her grand-daughter to look at them. The first time she looked,
she could see that they were transparent under the light,
the inner workings of their bodies like cogs in a machine.
“Mind these thingeens as if they were money,” said her grandmother.

She didn’t really know why her grandmother
put so much importance upon them,
but she trusted her in all things.
That is why she always nurtured them herself,
keeping them safe and moist in her pockets, or else
always had some in her purse or a side section of her handbag.
She came to realise their significance only as she aged,
as she became bent and baggy.

She could feel the sea in her hair,
even though she was miles from any ocean,
and knew that it was the woodlice who bid its presence.
And she could hear waves, ancient as space, crashing all around her.
In time she could hear the woodlice themselves,
their voices like small timepieces ticking seconds.
And seconds that added up to minutes and hours and days and weeks,
and months and years and forever. All of Time was their
conversation, and she listened to every word, until she
was part of that eternal noise. And that noise was creation,
imminent and transcendent. And she knew finally the importance
of minding those woodlice, and wished now that she had someone to tell.

painting: Sitting girl with black apron by Egon Schiele

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