Little Rooms
by Laura Foley

In fourth grade I made a box
for stones, twenty little rooms,
each gem tidy
on its cotton-puff bed:
limonite, quartz, azurite;
each name printed
neatly on paper labels
in royal blue: garnet,
muscovite, feldspar.
Twenty little rooms
equal in comfort,
labeled with certainty:
pyrite, gypsum, magnetite;
each owning definite properties:
could scratch lines on another, or not,
shine like gold, streak like chalk,
or break glass-like
into fragile prismatic shards.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I recently found the box of minerals, still intact! I remember wrapping the flowered contact paper over the box cover; you can see my fourth-grade handwriting on the label for each square.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In fourth grade we each had to make our own boxes to hold mineral samples. I decorated mine with pink flowered contact paper. Around this same time, my parents were going through a divorce, and my two older sisters were exhibiting strange behaviors, mental illnesses that would plague them their whole lives. Our household was chaotic. I found solace in schoolwork, and in my prized collection of beautiful stones.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Laura Foley’s books include Night Ringing (Headmistress Press 2016),  Joy Street (Headmistress Press 2014) and The Glass Tree (Harbor Mountain Press, 2012). She won the 2016 Common Good Books poetry contest, judged by Garrison Keillor, and the 2016 Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest, judged by Marge Piercy. Visit her at