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.