Tunneling Bivalves (Lithophaga palmerae)
I have eaten stone. I have tunneled through the hardest
hearts. For ten years, I was in the hands of a wizard
who, little by little, made me forget everything I knew
before I met him. He fed me stones. I became a small
soft thing, covered with two hinged shells, digging
farther away from the world outside, the world I thought
would hurt me. I shrank smaller each day, tunneled
deeper. I wanted to disappear. While I was enslaved,
I learned to use silence as a weapon. My shells
closed tight, tried to protect my softness, but the wizard
jammed gravel in and devoured me. We used to swim
together, in dark water, his robes hanging over the pool
like a tent. His robes were warm, and sheltered me.
His robes were stifling, and smothered me. I was not
a good apprentice. I failed all the exams, I was held
back to repeat the same lessons over and over.
He wove elaborate spells to keep me in my place.
He was content for me to be his forever.
I was his slave, though I hated him and made him pay
for my service in other ways. I thought the hardness
of his heart was a sign of God’s presence, of God’s wisdom.
I forgot to look for God’s grace, God’s joy. My tears
fell and anointed the floor. I was like a religious pilgrim
who brought palm fronds home, nailed them
to the wall of her room, slept with one eye open,
to see if dry leaves caught fire. I was a staple
for the wizard, I gave him everything I possessed,
willingly, and when he would not give me the knowledge
I sought, I betrayed him. His anger was mighty,
and destroyed much of my beauty. When I first fled
the wizard’s castle, I felt powerless, I felt alone.
The wizard was happy I was gone — I had learned
the lesson he had been trying so hard to illustrate
all those years. The one about peace, about power.
He was my teacher, for that I am grateful.
Injury comes from inside, I know that now.
I try to remember to feel God inside. Still, sometimes
I forget I am not eating stone anymore. Sometimes
the food I prepare for myself still tastes like stone.