LACHRYMALS

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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