Pearl Divers

by Jane Feinsod

And if collision and consumption are the same thing, then I will
slam my body into those of the pearl divers. Yellow and red,
bruised and sinking further, further—

To go down for the harvest, to find nothing but barotrauma and an
emptied-out vessel, to turn yellow and red, sometimes purple, the
further down they go.

The pearl divers and I, we’re stagnant. Even against the motion of the rapids, of
each other, the same thing. So, we don’t move, for now.
They stay on deck, with me. We make our own pearls inside each other’s beaded eyes.

If we stopped blinking, they could get to work, get to plummeting.
I wouldn’t stop them. I’d want to. I wouldn’t want to.
I’d watch them bubble up to the surface, empty handed, red and yellow.

The pearl divers say, in unison, “There is nothing down there, but there is water in our
bodies.” We stare, we move. We gawk and slam against ourselves. “We won’t find nacre
this way, but at least it’s a space still unexplored.”

If they would stop colliding, consuming, if they’d go back to the deep, I’d paint
myself yellow and red to match. They wouldn’t have time to slam into me if
they’d go back. But instead, bruising, ripening,

the same thing. I ask the pearl divers if they understand what I mean
this time. By collision and consumption.
They pretend not to hear and they stare, a further middle distance.

They know that I know there are no more wild mollusks left for them
to find, for anyone to find, anything to find.
Collision, consumption, the same thing, took the last of it.

If we’d admit this, we’d stop our slamming, stop our staring. We’d just close
our eyes, we’d just squawk and squeal on dry land, further down the

Jane Feinsod is an MFA candidate in poetry at UMass Amherst, where she is an inaugural recipient of the Rose Fellowship. She was nominated for the 2022 Best New Poets Anthology and is the current poetry editor of Paperbark Magazine. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Arkansas International, Orange Blossom Review, Baby Teeth Journal, and elsewhere.