by Joan Colby

My onxy lost among agates
And castup stones
On a driftwood shore.
Bleached hulks
Like an abandoned city
Stare hollowly at the horizon
That hinges where water closes
On air. I plunge in
Gasping with the cold,
Swim out beyond the sandbar
Where the water secedes from
Jade to deep blue slate,
The color of sorrow.

I wore that black stone
Since I was seventeen
For luck. It brought me none.
My finger wasted
Beneath its hemisphere.
I wore it out of habit,
Out of relativity
Trusting in tomorrow
Despite the doorslam
Of the past
Echoing like these breakers fomenting their own sure
Destruction, not even grandiose,
No rocks to crash on, no
Seawall to storm, merely this
Useless fizzle, a laying down
Of pebbles, the backwash
Taking others up.

So my onyx
May have been taken
Out to the bruiseblue levels
To darken and glisten
Hexing steamers.

Perhaps it’s still here
Underfoot. I reach
For a black sheen
That, brought to air,
Dries into the sullen
Color of charcoal.

Why rue the loss
Of a bad luck charm?
Why this need to count on something
Even misfortune?

There are uncountable
Stones on this beach.
One of them my onyx
Gone to the mineral world
It missed.

My finger, riderless,
Feels strange, a lone
Survivor of some
Ineluctable disaster.

I revoke
The talisman,
That black spot,
Ace of spades.

Emptied of auguries,
A ringless woman,
I begin to count
On my unshackled fingers like a child
Beginning to learn.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: The photo is of me at 17 — I think you can see that ring!

SOURCE: First published in Voyeur.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The onyx lost from the ring was given to me by my aunt-godmother for my 17th birthday. My aunt was known for gifting unusual items such as a package of gold-tipped Turkish cigarettes that she gave me when I was 14. At a difficult period in my life, the onyx came to represent misfortune, so its loss was in a way a relief.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, Gargoyle, Pinyon, Little Patuxent Review, Spillway, Midwestern Gothic, and others. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 17 books including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Three of her poems have been featured on Verse Daily and another is among the winners of the 2016 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. Her newest book, Carnival, was published by FutureCycle Press in 2016. She has another forthcoming from Kelsay Press in 2017 titled The Seven Heavenly Virtues. She is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review. Visit her at or on Facebook or Twitter.