The Pearl

by Anna Leader

he has gone too deep this time for twelve years old.
his breath escapes him in a pale green bubble
that shivers and shimmers, the size of his fist.
although his mouth opens wide-wide-wide,
sea fills his lungs. the bubble floats on.

(a shoal of tiny fish flick by, nudging the sphere between quicksilver bodies.
they slip it into an gaping oyster shell and use it as a lamp)

i lost my breath under the sea sixty years ago,
and my lungs are older than they should be. i am sick from wheezing,
sick from squeezing air into places it will not go.

a boy emerges onto the beach, dripping with surprise.
grandfather, grandfather, look what i found, he cries,
and when the grandfather sees the pearl, he smiles.

when the sun sets low over the harbour, he dissolves it in vinegar
and drinks it with his tea.