SELF PORTRAIT AS OYSTER

I am a sumptuous delicacy raked from shallows of brackish bays,
shucked through mantle by twisting blade, 
popped hollows of creamy white meat      
gulped—raw. If you wet your hunger with my tenderness, 
you cede to be ruined. I will tranquilize your frailty 
and cut you with my truths. To be vital, mustn’t one be capable of 
keeping secrets--secure in their shell? The fraudulence 
is what makes the presence of the naked soul 
to the mourner necessary. Because grief is intoxicating 
and it calls for a surreal response. 

I am shaped by the bottom to which
I was originally attached—coarse, vociferant, 
ardent—bone with crags, irregular surface 
of shelters for others to reside—
clinging, tenacious. Outgrowth of body wall  conceals
the exquisite inner surface—filtering pollutants, rebalancing ecosystems, 
adhered to rock and berth--always orienting, with outer shell tilted 
upward toward the verge. Splayed over a surface, like a nymph over an altar. 

Sometimes when I’m careless, I think survival is easy. 
Through the intercourse of daily life, you savor 
what you have, or wrap the broken fragments with an inner nacre 
until something manifests—strong, resilient, opulent.
I never expected to find art trapped in the word heartbreak, 
to knife it open and lift it out like a wet pearl, 
an invasive nucleus of inner-shell opulence, whose spectrum depends 
on the shape of the irritant. Isn’t she a visionary spectacle of colorful surfaces, 
changing with the angle of the view? Don’t you admire my transparency? 
If you put a hand to the milky dappled vault in the margin between my shoulders 
you can feel a smooth, rounded bead. 
I am an opaline mother-- phenomenal. 

About this poem:

I wrote this poem as an exercise from a virtual writing workshop during the second phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, when entering vaccine queues was an extreme sport. April 2021, was also the impossible time of my son’s first birthday following his suicide, six months prior. I’ve chosen to publish on the solemn occasion of my own birthday, the last time we took a photo together. I am reminded of a time when my little boys plucked oysters from a bath, then held pearls in their palms–the violent surrender of it. Growing up on the Atlantic coastline in the east end of Long Island, I’ve always had a strong strong connection to the sea. Slurping the sweet brackish flesh always returns me to the turbulant waters from whence all life was formed.

About the image:

To break out from the isolation of my exteme grief, I took a Saturday afternoon collage-making class at a local art studio in Burlington, Vermont. There wasn’t a plan, just stacks of magazines, random paper scraps, a canvas and glue. It’s what happened. It’s all there, me. I leave it to the viewer to interpret.

© Deborah Garcia 2021, All rights reserved

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