THE BEAD WORKER – a prose poem

– a prose poem

By Gabrielle Blair


Focused like a surgeon, he pokes his needle into a mess of glassy beads,
and picks out the chosen one to press into its bed of wax.
Pick-poke-press; pick-poke-press.
How quickly the little pile of beads dissolves.
His left hand cradles a perfect miniature dog,
with large pricked ears and  doleful eyes,
a Chihuahua that observes his coat appear.
Tiny dots of color explode into a star-shaped pendant
with two black-bordered shoulder-pads to match.
Its grey, waxed, naked skin transforms into a riotous rainbow.
His lined face is serene; his voice is quiet, unhurried.
Years of patience has shaped his demeanor, for you cannot rush his craft.
There’s no wasted move – rhythmic, like the ticking of a metronome:
pick-poke-press; pick-poke-press.
He pauses to stretch his aching shoulders and rest his eyes.
Thirty years ago he asked a Huichol to teach him how to paint with beads.
The maestro laughed and said: What’s to teach?
Just go away and start!
And so a bead-bedecked panther was born.
This one, the first of hundreds of exquisite creatures,
traveled with him to the States and back
before it found a home in Ajijic.
Ten hours a day the maestro works his beads:
pick-poke-press; pick-poke-press,
until the table groans beneath its bounty – a garden of delights.
Here a yellow giraffe, with orange spots and zebra-colored mane, towers
more than a meter high above a tubby, emerald elephant with playful coiling trunk.
There a haughty tiger keeps a stealthy watch on skulls with caverness eyes
and geometric patterned cheeks.
Sparkling bracelets, belts, necklaces and rings compete for space
between iguanas and a blue and red starred tiger with large beige paws.
Flower-shaped earrings drip from hooks, and over there, the maestro works,
his face shaded by his Huichol feathered hat, with brim of dangling beads.
It will be a week before the Chihuahua, its fantastic coat complete, will join the menagerie: bright plumed parrots, a lion,
a one-horned purple deer and a magenta-maned, black stallion.
Each magical creature waits to captivate a soul who, for some pocket money,
will take it home to find a place of honor,
like the star-studded, golden tiger on our piano top,
homage to the Huichol’s art of bead painting.

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