An Excommunicated Nun Gave Me The Sand Dollar She Kept With Her Worry Dolls


You shouldn’t have given it up
if it makes you cry. Even the dolls,
to carry all your worries, can’t absorb
all the tears this disk can. I see you
press it to your eye like a soda
cracker. These chambers are filled with salt
stalactites—all yours. I would give this back
to you on your tongue. If that
would heal you. But what’s here
is empty bone. Shake it—a dull
ting. Once the world was
a sand dollar tethered to heaven, then
man made it spin free. I hold your old world,
flat and simple, and you hold
on—use the dolls. Tell them you are
a stone, and when you sleep the earth
cuts you loose and you wake, grabbing
at air. Tell them your teeth
are cottage cheese and you save
the pieces for your dentist. Tell
them you walk, barefoot, on rotting fish. All this
darkness is for their wooden backs. Cry
into their bright aprons. Let crystals
fill their hair and make their painted
faces peel. Let them grow miserably
furry like old salt maps. Make their dresses
weak as old pillowcases so they can go
back to being bare wood. You’ve done
them a favor—paring away the world
of things. Think simply how light
a sand dollar becomes, as light as the host.

Sandra Sylvia Nelson