In the Times Square Nathan’s dining room—
from fancy days as Toffenetti’s—while eating
a fried-oyster sandwich, I bit something hard.
I feared a stone, a dislodged filling, a chunk
of shell, but my tongue found a pearl—

tiny, but a perfect sphere, a dot of opalescence
on my fingertip, the idea of pearlishness more than
potential jewel—no real value, yet formed
by the same extravagant response to an irritant
as a priceless one, or as a poem is formed.

I admit: I lost it. In one of the years of the decades
since, I misplaced it, or else it vanished as minor
souvenirs will, hiding between boards
of a dresser drawer or pulled out with coins or tie tack
to roll away on the floor. The pearl is not

a symbol of what is lost. I have enough
reminders of lost friends, lost opportunities,
lost youth or money. That a pearl was lost is not
important, but that something real, something rare,
something of value once was found—

in a mediocre sandwich in a drab space of a dim
place on a gray street—on a day without consequence,
it took its brief place among the world’s
honored specks of substance. It isn’t owning
pearls that matters, but finding them.



  1. Ed Curtis · · Reply

    I can imagine you have found lots of pearls and that you continue to find them. You are right about the finding and the inexplicable joy they bring when they appear, unexpectedly, against a gray backdrop. A perfect snowflake on an old, worn parka.

    Could a fried oyster be a jewel?

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