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Symmetries of dilation

Early griefs lay down the shape –

as a baby nautilus creates

with its first seed-chamber

the opalescent model

for its unfolding


Death of a pet turtle. Its small life taken

for granted. But, in the ritual —

the pastel roses cut from birthday cards

and pasted on a cardboard box, the hollow

dug with a spoon from the kitchen drawer —

sadness swallows us.

We feel again the scrabble of minute claws

against our palm, remember the sideways

scoop of stubby legs. In wrapping

the shallow-domed shell with pink tissue,

we come to know completely

that the narrow head will never

emerge again. Remember our delight?

that first time, when we saw the cords

stretch beneath the pleated skin

and the miniature jaws


The newer griefs grow larger, but

no different in shape. The great griefs

loom ahead. Their mouths open wider

and wider, create

the laminate structure of loss—

sea creatures building a universe

of spiralled pearl. Hold that opening

to your ear and listen

to the empty


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