How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder that a whole city—arches, pillars, colonnades, not to mention vehicles and animals—had all one fine day gone under? I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then. Surely a great city must have been missed? I miss our old city — white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe what really happened is this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word to convey that what is gone is gone forever and never found it. And so, in the best traditions of where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name and drowned it.
And when I take them out of the cherrywood box these beads are the colour of dog-violets in shadow. Then at the well of the throat where tears start they darken. Now I wear at my neck an old stress of crystal: an impression of earthly housekeeping. A mysterious brightness made underground where there is no sun only stories of a strayed child and her mother bargaining with a sullen king. Promising and arguing: what she can keep, what she can let him have. Shadows and the season violets start up in are part of the settlement. Stolen from such a place these beads cannot be anything but wise to the healing arts of compromise, of survival. And when I wear them it is almost as if my skin was taking into itself a medicine of light. Something like the old simples. Rosemary, say, or tansy. Or camomile which they kept to cool fever. Which they once used to soothe a child tossing from side to side, beads of sweat catching and holding a gleam from the vigil lamp. A child crying out in her sleep Wait for me. Don’t leave me here. Who will never remember this. Who will never remember this.