Shouldn’t it ache, this slit
into the sweet
and salt mix of  waters

comprising the mussel,
its labial meats
winged open: yellow-

fleshed, black and gray
around the tough
adductor? It hurts

to imagine it, regardless
of the harvester’s
denials, swiveling

his knife to make
the incision: one
dull cyst nicked

from the oyster’s
mantle — its thread of red
gland no bigger

than a seed
of  trout roe — pressed
inside the tendered

flesh. Both hosts eased
open with a knife
(as if anything

could be said to be eased
with a knife):
so that one pearl

after another can be
harvested, polished,
added to others

until a single rope is strung
on silk. Linked
by what you think

is pain. Nothing
could be so roughly
handled and yet feel

so little, your pity
turned into part of this
production: you

with your small,
four-chambered heart,
shyness, hungers, envy: what

could be so precious
you’d cleave
another to keep it

close? Imagine
the weeks it takes to wind
nacre over the red

seed placed at the other
heart’s mantle.
The mussel

become what no one
wants to:
vessel, caisson, wounded

into making us
the thing we want
to call beautiful.

More Poems by Paisley Rekdal