The Stories Held by Things


The Stories Held by Things

Niata and Solchi sit in the shade of a baobob,
coils of bright plastic between them,
bright green, pink, white, black, green.
Blue. Yellow.
They do not touch the yellow.
They are afraid of it, perhaps,
or dubious. Yellow is the color of the water
that carried their sister away
as she called out to them,
helpless on the bank––
the color
of the skin of their brother
who was surrendered to the water
to be carried away as well.

Yellow is not in their
creative vocabulary
as they wind, wind the plastic cord
into bracelets, forming designs
of checkerboards and crosses,
stripes like the stripes in candy canes
given in December by the missionaries.
Now a band of blue, then back to white lines
on black backgrounds.

 They fantasize about
who would wear these bracelets.
A penny each, they are given for their efforts.
Such cheap adornment—who would buy?
They weave into the bracelets stories
of the other village girls.
The one married to the tiger who carried her away.
The one with a pact made with the devil
who gave her to the handsome rich white man
who, it is said, took her to America
to sit in a chair and be waited upon,
preserving her beauty like any shiny thing
laid on a shelf.

This girl, Rishan, has entered the folklore of the town
in her lifetime. They imagine her, at nighttime by the fire,
on her throne in America. Perhaps a couch
by Ikea or Walmart or other shopping places
of the rich and famous. Like diamonds, she sparkles
in the heat of July—perhaps in a bikini her mother
would blush at, reclined by a pool of sparkling water
that she never enters, meant as she is to remain
at the edge of life. One beautiful thing
surrounded by others.

 On their tongues
are stories of Rishan and their sister
carried away, their brother lost.
They store their memories as each completed bracelet
is cast in the basket with the others;
so by night time, they cannot tell
who made which.
Their lives so cast together
that they can barely tell the difference
between them. So that when
Niata slices her finger on the knife
meant to cut the plastic strips,
Solchi cries out, thinking it was
her own hand that was cut.

 Such is the sameness of life in these places
where baubles are constructed
for American ladies to buy in a gallery
miles from town in a Wyoming outpost
of the rich and famous—a retreat
for fantasies of Westerns watched in their youth.
Dude ranches, golf courses, polo fields
and a gallery made special by the thirty miles they must drive
to comb through treasures from Mexico, India and Africa.
All the places the gallery owner goes who loves to shop––
bringing back treasures for others to buy.
This huge basket filled with bracelets
reduced from four dollars to one dollar to fifty cents.

 I line my arms with them.
They are cheap treasures—a steal at this price
and when I bring them home to Mexico,
I wear them more often than the silver bracelets
purchased over a life time—favorites all.
Perhaps contentment in life
consists of creating new favorites
and treasuring all, regardless of the price;
so that when we are asked to surrender all,
there is no accounting necessary.
All equally valuable—priceless or of so little monetary value
that they have to be valued by their beauty, like Rishan,
put on the pedestal of their memory so these girls
spread near the riverbank like colorful flowers
might imagine themselves stringing pearls
and diamonds, emeralds and beads
of bright lapis lazuli
instead of this humble beauty in the making
that I find as precious
as the stories
their makers will tell
over and over again,
winding words around
long afternoons.


7 thoughts on “The Stories Held by Things

  1. 49lilykatz

    What a gorgeous poem you have written. “…meant as she is to remain at the edge of life” is my favorite part. You just say so much about our throw-away culture and our equally messed-up perceptions about womens’ roles. Thanks!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marilyn Armstrong

    When we were in Haiti, there was a marketplace. A man was selling oil paintings. We asked how much for two small ones, and he said $5 for both. Garry and I gave him $25 and he thought we were crazy. I only wish we’d had more cash with us because the paintings were and are lovely and the money meant so little to us and so much to him.

    Your poem brought that memory out of hiding. I hadn’t thought of that day in years.


  3. lifelessons Post author

    Reblogged this on lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown and commented:

    These bracelets, which I have on today, brought to mind this poem from two years ago that deals with (or at the very least, makes use of) today’s prompt word of “dubious.” I lived and traveled for many years abroad..a number of those years spent in Africa or traveling through Indonesia and this poem always reminds me of the thousands of artisans I met during those years, not knowing that later I would become an artisan myself.



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