Vintage Words


What is your favorite semi-precious stone?

Onyx, he said. Is it your birthstone, I wondered.

No, he said. His aspect flat, his voice uninflected.

I asked, are you partial to black? He lifted

his chin and stared like a fiend, the anger

all tight whiplashed out in a sneer,


If you gotta know, my ma had a ring and

the stone was as black as black can be black.

My dad hocked it. I never forgot how my ma

cried for losing onyx.


Beneath his hard leer, I ventured to ask,

Did she ever get the ring out of hock?

No, he said, but I bought one brand new

and buried it with her when she died.







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