-by Brian Quinn
Originally published here: Five:2:One Issue 16 (Volume 16)– May 31, 2017


i’ve got this poem now

relating a memory i had of
the Polaroid I took of this pearl i
once found.

it’s all that i have.

that’s not quite true:
i also have a yellowing copy of
Henley’s Twentieth Century
Formulas, Recipes and Processes.

it was given to me by my mother.

it warns that pearls(too)
yellow over time.
by absorbing perspiration
from being worn in the hair, at
the throat, and on
the arm.

this poem i have(now. that
i wrote?)
tells me that i
never had the pearl.
I only.took a picture of it(leaving
it where i found it),
put the Polaroid in my pocket to
carry around with me(to
to help me remember
its beauty).

Henley’s Formulas, Recipes
and Processes. and
the Polaroid of a pearl.

they were all that i had.

the Henley’s was yellowing from age
(does the poem mention
that? i don’t remember). the
Polaroid was just starting to,
around the edges, from
absorbing perspiration(from being

Cleaning Pearls*

Pearls turn yellow in the course of time by absorbing perspiration on account of being worn in the hair, at the throat, and on the arms. There are several ways of rendering them white again.

The best process is said to be to put the pearls into a bag with wheat bran and to heat the bag over a coal fire, with constant motion.

Another method is to bring 8 parts each of well-calcined, finely powdered lime and wood charcoal, which has been strained through a gauze sieve, to a boil with 500 parts of pure rain water, suspend the pearls over the steam of the boiling water until they are warmed through, and then boil them in the liquid for 5 minutes, turning frequently. Let them cool in the liquid, take them out, and wash off well with clean water.

Place the pearls in a piece of fine linen, throw salt on them, and tie them up. Next rinse the tied-up pearls in lukewarm water until all the salt has been extracted, and dry them at an ordinary temperature.

The pearls may also be boiled about 1/4 hour in cow’s milk into which a little cheese or soap has been scraped; take them out, rinse off in fresh water, and dry them with a clean, white cloth.

Another method is to have the pearls, strung on a silk thread or wrapped up in thin gauze, mixed in a loaf of bread of barley flour and to have the loaf baked well in an oven, but not too brown. When cool remove the pearls.

Hang the pearls for a couple of minutes in hot, strong, wine vinegar or highly diluted sulphuric acid, remove, and rinse them in water. Do not leave them too long in the acid, otherwise they will be injured by it.

the poem doesn’t explain
what happened to the Polaroid of
the pearl. only that it was supposed to
help me remember beauty.
i really don’t remember ever
having it. the only
thing i can say
is that my pockets
are empty.

that’s not quite true:
i can say that my clothes smell of vinegar.
the milk tastes like soap.

i read in the poem that
i held on to the memory of the Polaroid
for a long time. it was all that i had.

i sometimes wonder what happened to
Henley’s Formulas, and Processes,
but i don’t really want to know. i think
i wear it around my neck, a comforting
oppression, but i can’t see it.

maybe it’s that i simply don’t
think about it anymore.

what I do think about is that
the poem is beginning to turn yellow.
i no longer have the paper
it was written’s the poem
itself.turning yellow.i carry it
to(keep it safe)remember the Polaroid.

images-2it’s all that i have now.

i don’t know
if any of
it is true

but i think i.wrote it: this poem of
a me(mory)i had.of this
Polaroid.i once.


*The section on Cleaning Pearls is quoted from
“Henley’s Twentieth Century Formulas, Recipes And Processes”
Author Norman W. Henley
Copyright 1916, The Norman W. Henley Publishing Company


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