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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 17: 29 Jan. 2023
Poem: 599 words
By Lori Howe
(Cadralor #19)

Opals and Other Edible Jewels

—for Patrick
1. Harvest 

But in the cadaver lab, she says, she saw doctors opening 
their eyes in amazement: spleens in the wrong place, pancreata 
fingered like catcher’s mitts. Grinning for the selfie, they held 
up a turquoise liver like a baby shark, “can you believe this thing?” 
I think of the early anatomists, how they found intestines linked 
like knockwurst that pulled and pulled, slick magician’s scarves 
unspooling to cover a badminton court. Ah, their faces: a holy light 
of knowing, a beatitude of blood and entrails, dazzled to discover 
the womb in a fixed place, unable to tuck up her skirts and wander 
like a madwoman. The golden pineal gland, a tiny, perfect mushroom. 

2. Tektites 

In 997, a young nun licked her paintbrush to a point; she breathed 
in the blue azurite particles of ultramarine, worth its weight in gold. 
A thousand years later, the brilliant blue a sky-colored treasure 
cached in bone, a secret life of women scholars who illuminated 
manuscripts. On a Pacific coral atoll called Pingelap, every tenth human 
inhabitant is colorblind: they find beauty in the thousand 
textures of leaves and hair, in feathered water, in clavicular shadows. 
Even glass is beauty born through extremity: imagine it raining back 
to earth in red-hot droplets, now milky, ancient handfuls, children 
of the asteroid that flung earthly bodies all the way to Saturn. 

3. Crown Shyness 

There are days in which our selves spread quietly into the space 
between dermis and epidermis, pressing splayed fingers and palms 
against the clear membrane, wanting free of skin and bones, 
the spoked clatter of bicycles on the dangerous, fragrant streets 
of our minds. My student who will be an astrobotanist, first to farm 
vegetables on distant planets, has chosen to become a man. 
I know, I want to tell them. I know the constant molecular ache 
of woman softness pressing against the hard edges of this world. 
The female ghost crab uses the teeth in her stomach to growl, 
to frighten away enemies. To other females, it is a kind of singing. 

4. Excellent Condition 

I answer an ad on the Marketplace: a man in my small Wyoming town 
is selling all his Elvis jumpsuits, the stack-heeled boots, the gold chains 
and sunglasses. Perhaps he has grown tired of dying his hair black; 
the sneer that was never his, grown real. Perhaps the guys found out—
saw him in Vegas, on a stag weekend to which he was not invited—
and when he returned on Monday, found his desk festive with thongs 
and bras, string lights shaped like tiny penises, twinkling. 
He doesn’t answer. I see him driving away from the city inside him, 
a hard, brightly lit town in which almost no one ever sleeps, a place 
edged by sodium vapor shadows where coyotes embrace the feral. 

5. Opals and Other Edible Jewels 

Encased in elegant skins of silica, diatoms are phytoplankton. 
Neither plant nor animal, they float in the upper bands of salt 
and fresh water, producing 25% of our oxygen. When they die 
and fossilize, we eat them, graceful silica skeletons crunching 
between our teeth. Human bodies contain two big handfuls of salt, 
but it is never enough to satisfy; we crave it like sea caves, oysters. 
You were the first to show me that my bones are made of opals: 
all they need to glow visible is the right equation of heat and light, 
finger tracing scapulae, mouth pressed to the tender spot below 
my ear, stained with beauty, the ink of your name, your hands. 




Publisher’s Note:

Also of interest, this research article related to the young nun and scholar who makes an appearance in Stanza 2 above: “Medieval women’s early involvement in manuscript production suggested by lapis lazuli identification in dental calculus” by A. Radini et al, in Science Advances (Volume 5, Issue 1: 9 January 2019).

Lori Howe
Issue 17 (29 January 2023)

is a co-creator of the new poetic form, the cadralor [plural: cadralore], and Editor in Chief of its flagship journal, Gleam. Her work appears in such journals as The Meadow, The Tampa Review, Sandstorm, Verse-Virtual, Synkroniciti, and MacQueen’s Quinterly. She is also the author of Cloudshade: Poems of the High Plains and Voices at Twilight (Sastrugi Press, 2015 and 2016 respectively) and the editor of Blood, Water, Wind, and Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers (Sastrugi Press, 2016).

Ms. Howe lives and writes in Laramie, Wyoming, where she is a professor in the Honors College at the University of Wyoming, and mother to a feral cat named Miss Kitty Pants.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Magnetoreception, a cadralor by Lori Howe in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 13, May 2022), nominated by MacQ for a Pushcart Prize

Refraction and Ripening, two cadralore by Lori Howe in MacQ (Issue 6, January 2021)

New Poetic Form With Wyoming Roots Goes Viral by Micah Schweizer at Wyoming Public Media (4 December 2020); includes audio of Lori Howe reading her cadralore (Numbers 9, 5, and 4)

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