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«The Book of Agate Here, on my desk, lies a handful of beach agates, catching the winter light. They are charms I’ve given myself to play with. ...»

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“I have been busy with a single art,” wrote W. B. Yeats, in preface to one of his collections, “that of the theatre, of a small, unpopular theatre; and this art may well seem to practical men, busy with some programme of industrial or political regeneration, of no more account than the shaping of an agate;

and yet in the shaping of an agate, whether in the cutting or the making of the design, one discovers, if one has a speculative mind, thoughts that seem important and principles that may be applied to life itself, and certainly if one does not believe so, one is but a poor cutter of so hard a stone.” I was tempted to write that an agate is like a piece of my own bone, broken off.

But it’s clear to me, finally, that the closest a body owns to an agate is the eye:

Blue or green. Hazelnut and almond.

Not long for its socket.

Even as he went blind, Galileo stared upwards at glinting worlds.

Two years after he published his Natural History, Pliny the Elder perished in the eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii in 79 A.D., a pyroclastic flow that rolled over the countryside, creating new hollows in layers of ash.

Hollows in which agates may well form, when we are all gone and yet another epoch has descended upon the earth.

Agates in the shapes of bodies, clinging to one another.



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