Pearl Diver


I was the best.

My sisters swore
I grew gills and fins in every dive.
Octopus and squid never fled
in inky fright from me;
sharks that claimed my brother
swam sightlessly near me.
I held my breath longer,
I dove deeper
than any in my village.

I never told my secret.

Grandmother says
a water demon entered me
but she is old
and she sees demons everywhere.
She says that is why
I came up coughing blood
when last I dove
and now must walk the land
with sea-pain in my bones.

Never to dive for pearls again—
I weep for Urashima
enduring sea-change born of love
only to end a scattering
of surf-bleached bones upon the sand
beside an empty open box,
an untied ribbon of saffron silk
fluttering in the salty breeze.

The oysters sang to me.


First published in Under Every Moon by GL Francis, 2013 (publisher: Charlie Dawg Press).
Available at

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