Jewel Box

By Eamon Grennan b. 1941 Eamon Grennan
Your jewel box of white balsa strips
and bleached green Czechoslovakian rushes   
stands open where you keep it shelved   
in the bathroom. Morning and evening   
I see you comb its seawrack tangle of shell,   
stone, wood, glass, metal, bone, seed   
for the bracelet, earring, necklace, brooch   
or ring you need. Here's brass from Nepal,   
a bangle of African ivory and chased silver   
for your wrist, a twist of polished
sandalwood seeds, deep scarlet,
gleaming like the fossil tears
of some long-gone exotic bird
with ruby crest, sapphire claws. Adriatic   
blue, this lapis lazuli disc will brighten   
the pale of your throat, and on this small   
alabaster seal-ring the phantom of light   
inscribes a woman tilting an amphora, clear   
as day, almost as old as Alexander. To the   
ebony velvet brim of your hat you'll pin   
a perfect oval of abalone, a dark-whorled   
underwater sheen to lead us to work   
this foggy February morning. We'll leave   
your nest of brightness in the bathroom   
between the mirror and the laundry-basket   
where my dirty shirts sprawl like
drunks amongst your skirts and blouses. Lace-
work frills and rainbow silk pastels, your panties   
foam over the plastic brim, and on the shower-rail   
your beige and talc-white bras dangle by one strap   
like the skinned Wicklow rabbits I remember   
hanging from hooks outside the victuallers'   
big windows. We've been domesticated strangely,   
love, according to our lights: when you
walk by me now, naked and not quite dry   
from the shower, I flatten my two hands   
on your wet flank, and wonder at the tall   
column of flesh you are, catching the faint   
morning light that polishes you pale as   
alabaster. You're warm, and stay a moment   
still like that, as though we were two planets   
pausing in their separate orbits, pendant,
on the point of crossing. For one pulse-stroke   
they take stock of their bodies
before returning to the journey. Dressed,   
you select a string of chipped amber
to hang round your neck, a pair of star-shaped   
earrings, a simple ring of jet-black
lustrous onyx. Going down the stairs and   
out to the fogbound street, you light my way.

Eamon Grennan, "Jewel Box" from What Light there Is & Other Poems. Copyright © 1989 by Eamon Grennan.   Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: What Light there Is & Other Poems (Graywolf Press, 1989)

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Poet Eamon Grennan b. 1941

POET’S REGION Ireland

Subjects Marriage & Companionship, Home Life, Living, Relationships

 Eamon  Grennan

Biography

Born in Dublin, Eamon Grennan attended boarding school at a Cistercian monastery. He met Derek Mahon and Eavan Boland as an undergraduate at University College, Dublin, spent a year in Rome, and then came to the United States to earn his PhD at Harvard. He began writing poetry in earnest in 1977 and published his first collection, Wildly for Days, in 1983. He lives in the United States but returns frequently to western Ireland, . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Marriage & Companionship, Home Life, Living, Relationships

POET’S REGION Ireland

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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