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The PaperweightFrances Leviston
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Vol. 35 No. 13 · 4 July 2013
Poem

The Paperweight

Frances Leviston

453 words

From Chambord-pink at the base, it clears
to where the upper curve reflects
a skull-cap of charcoal, giving the earthʼs atmosphere
in miniature: the sea, the air, then space.
Erupting from that wavy cocktail is a white flower
like a frozen whale-spout arrested mid-expulsion,
a filigree fuchsia trumpet, petals
peeling in a spray, bearing among them a bubble
shaped like a long inverted tear-drop, an airy utterance
trapped in the glass.

Thereʼs no remembering now where it came from,
gift with no giver, a solid glass fruit
more ovoid than round, more plum than orange,
a novelty not for consumption
weighing as much as a pint of milk
compressed in the palm, all fingers braced to hold it
as it slows the hand
better than the papers for which itʼs designed,
one end levelled off so it can stand
steady on my desk and keep my desk on the ground.

At eye-level, gazing through its distances, I see
tall violet chrysanthemum gates
opening through interstellar emptiness
on boiling horizons, and a huge hand grasping
at the jewelled arrangement, five smudged knuckles
on which the weight sits like the purple stone
caught in brass claws on my motherʼs cocktail ring,
too vivid, never worn, stuck in the dark
of its velvet box, over which I and my brother fought
bitterly, wanting her to will it to us.

I touch the weight to my forehead: cold
safety glass in the car’s back seat.
Coming home from a stay with family friends,
the arm-rest’s velveteen sofa down
and my forearms raked with effervescent pink
scores left by catsʼ claws when cats don’t want picking up,
I saw petrol refineries ranged along the firth
at sunset puff their blinds of cloud
across a rosy sky doubled in the running
waters few salmon survive.

Knowing where one noxious cloud began
and the next faded was hard, I would say distressing;
likewise determining where pink turned grey
or vice versa made me carsick. It was the apprehension
of a difference also seamless,
too fine for the fingertips, like a sentence
you seem to have understood but canʼt make sense of,
or something being done to you
without your permission, under the flag of helpfulness,
to which you can raise no legitimate objection.

I lift it higher, the weight, in my hand,
opening the iron gates of the zoo
where a pair of brass falcons in fretwork hoops
roost forever, and someone in summer
pointed out hippos half-sunk in muddy pools, sealed
as neoprene-impregnable as olives, all grey and rounded,
until they yawned and their muzzles unfolded
bluntly, padded, gammon-pink,
showing teeth as long and smooth as tent-pegs
hammered into the gums.

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