by David Wagoner

Some Roman women saved their tears in them.

     They held flat narrow-necked heart-shaped delicate phials

          Below their eyelids against each cheek in turn

And caught their tears. No one could shed enough

     In a single spasm to fill that tiny hollow,

          So the women stoppered them with glass teardrops

And waited. In the meanwhile, some wore them

     Like pendants to have that smooth translucent glass

          (The colors of changing light on the hills)

Nearby all day and all night: none could be certain

     When grief or pain or a sudden abundance

          Of sorrow might come welling into their eyes

Again. When they were full to the brim,

     Some women carried them as charms

          Of remembrance through their lives

And into their tombs, and some would pour them out

     Into quiet streams or onto the bare earth

          And walk away, and some would drink them.

David Wagoner edits for the University of Washington. His was published last year.

All material copyright © 2000 . All rights reserved.

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