Mess of Jewels

Rhiannon Conley


Our son spends the day in costume jewelry,
plastic pearls strewn about,
in his mouth, rolling
on his babbling tongue, the smell
of cheap, painted-shining metal
on his hands.

You will not speak to me
for my own distance, a measure of chain
I’ve mailed myself.

Our son pulls string after necklace-string
from tufted, patterned jewelry boxes,
scatters diamonds on the ground.
Buttery, yellow gold
as rich and artificial as moonlight
reflects off the television screen.
The dogs are wearing brooches.

I fill my mouth
with metallic-tasting water,
the river still freshly melted, still rich
with winter’s heavy sediment. The sound of it:
quiet rushing beyond our trees, hushing.
I am quiet        because you ask it
with your silence         because I asked first.

The sound of the house
is just tinkling
baby noises, the gentle rattle of a necklace
in his hands, the beads falling together
with the exact crisp
little sound a star makes
when it falls to earth, landing just so
to form a worthless
little hoard of impact diamonds.
I whisper to him, “Please be quiet,”
my breath smelling like copper.

I might want to say I’m run dry,
but it’s not true. I am fed
by underground springs, dark
silent rivers that lead
to the center of the earth.
Here are treasures, here are molten metals,
the burning physical magma churning,
turning up what must become jewelry—

and all of this revealed only in dreaming.
I must read each night like a book, otherwise
I am just sweeping and mopping
and making pancakes,
and I’d never know the difference.

I ask for quiet         because
I don’t know what else to ask for.

The house is a mess of jewels.
Clip-on earrings and bracelets,
my mother’s collection of rings.
Pendants, clay beads, glass
and wooden baubles. Shells glitter
from the floor. Our feet drag through gems
and earring backs like heavy drifts of snow
as we put our boy to bed.
He sleeps with a diamond in his mouth,
the point on the tip of his tongue.


Rhiannon Conley is a poet and writing instructor living in North Dakota. Her work has appeared in The North Dakota Quarterly, Grimoire, Occulum, Whale Road Review, Literary Mama, Longleaf Review and Moonchild Magazine. She was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016 and for Best of the Net in 2018. Her first chapbook, Less Precious, was published by Semiperfect Press in 2017. She writes an irregular newsletter of short poetic essays called Smol Talks and more regularly Tweets @RhiannonAdmidas.