Pinctada is the name
of a genus of saltwater oysters.
Like most oysters,
they are sessile filter feeders
minding their own damn business
until something gets stuck in their craw.
Perhaps a wayward grain of sand
or a fragment of a shell,
some errant particle
works its way beneath the armor
where, rather than a swift ejection,
the oyster’s defenses arrest the intruder,
imprisoning its sharp and unknown edges
in thick and milky layers of nacre,
whose smooth iridescence
poses little threat to the oyster’s
soft and tender insides.
Pearls are not the oyster’s intention,
but simply the byproduct of uncertainty
and the desire for self-preservation
and a low tolerance for the unfamiliar
in the places that feel most vulnerable.
I was minding my own business
when you slipped somehow, suddenly,
beneath my shell, abrasive and unexpected.
I still don’t know how to feel about you;
I’m by turns apprehensive and elated
as you persist in searching out
all my tenderest places.
What I do know is there’s a trail of pearls
being left, one by one, in your wake.