Jeanne Wagner: “The Teardrop Pendant”



Researchers created tear-duct organs and then made them cry.
—Findings, Harper’s Magazine


The Auschwitz survivor tells us,
at the last minute,
she ripped out the diamonds
sewn into her hem
and held them in her mouth,
the feel of their chiseled facets
pressing against her gums.
Those years in the camp,
afraid of being caught,
she’d force them into her gut,
their indestructible glitter
sullied but later made clean.
Now she has the diamonds
set in a teardrop pendant
she will give to her daughter
because we pass them down,
the sorrows. Tears our first language,
as integral to the body as blood,
as breast milk, as salt. As xylem
rising up the stems of flowers.
Virgil wrote There are tears in things.
Locked in the ice floes,
and the loneliness of cisterns.
Seething in fumaroles.
In those experimental tear-ducts,
so orphaned and tender,
they used gloved hands
to make them cry.


For Irene Zisblatt, Holocaust survivor.


Jeanne Wagner is the author of four chapbooks and three full-length collections: The Zen Piano-mover, winner of the NFSPS Poetry Prize, In the Body of Our Lives (Sixteen Rivers Press), and Everything Turns into Something Else, published in 2020 as runner-up for the Grayson Books Prize. Her work has appeared in Alaska Review, Cincinnati Review, North American Review, Florida Review, and Southern Review.

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