Join the Library in celebrating National Poetry Month

The Hardness Scale

by Joyce Peseroff

Diamonds are forever so I gave you quartz

which is #7 on the hardness scale

and it’s hard enough to get to know anybody these days

if only to scratch the surface

and quartz will scratch six other mineral surfaces:

it will scratch glass

it will scratch gold

it will even

scratch your eyes out one morning–you can’t be

too careful.

Diamonds are industrial so I bought

a ring of topaz

which is #8 on the hardness scale.

I wear it on my right hand, the way it was

supposed to be, right? No tears and fewer regrets

for reasons smooth and clear as glass. Topaz will scratch glass,

it will scratch your quartz,

and all your radio crystals. You’ll have to be silent

the rest of your days

not to mention your nights. Not to mention

the night you ran away very drunk very

very drunk and you tried to cross the border

but couldn’t make it across the lake.

Stirring up geysers with the oars you drove the red canoe

in circles, tried to pole it but

your left hand didn’t know

what the right hand was doing.

You fell asleep

and let everyone know it when you woke up.

In a gin-soaked morning (hair of the dog) you went

hunting for geese,

shot three lake trout in violation of the game laws,

told me to clean them and that

my eyes were bright as sapphires

which is #9 on the hardness scale.

A sapphire will cut a pearl

it will cut stainless steel

it will cut vinyl and mylar and will probably

cut a record this fall

to be released on an obscure label known only to aficionados.

I will buy a copy.

I may buy you a copy

depending on how your tastes have changed.

I will buy copies for my friends

we’ll get a new needle,

a diamond needle,

which is #10 on the hardness scale

and will cut anything.

It will cut wood and mortar,

plaster and iron,

it will cut the sapphires in my eyes and I will bleed

blind as 4 A.M. in the subways when even degenerates

are dreaming, blind as the time

you shot up the room with a new hunting rifle

blind drunk

as you were.

You were #11 on the hardness scale

later that night

apologetic as

you worked your way up

slowly from the knees

and you worked your way down

from the open-throated blouse.

Diamonds are forever so I give you softer things.

 To celebrate National Poetry Month 2012, the Emmanuel College Library will present poems and discussion questions from Mass Poetry’s second volume of Common Threads, “a celebration of poets and poetry with ties to our great state of Massachusetts.”


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