The beads are as old as time. Each a seed, a kernel. A word rolling on the tongue. A whole, shot through. Pierced. Each distinct, perfect. Ready to be threaded into a chain of something like continuity. Ready to adorn. Adore.
A string of shark’s teeth around my neck lends me the stealth of the shark. The ability to smell blood in the water. Bear claws give me the ferocity of the bear. Coyote bones confer the power to see the future. The beads are talismans of power, reminders of my own capacities.
The beads are stone. Ceramic. Glass. Shell. Silver, coral, lapis lazuli. Jade. Are currency. Humans sold in exchange for beads became slaves. Islands traded for precious strands. Beads have the power to shape destiny.
For years, the African bead I’d shoplifted was worn at my throat, strung on a strip of leather darkened with my body oils, its knot molded solid by sweat and time. The bead swallowed all of my unspoken mysteries, drank in the stories I would never tell. Sliced from my neck with a clean blade, it became a Talking Bead. For those with ears to listen.
The beads are singing. They tell their histories to the sea. Years spent rubbing at my wrists, my clavicle; they know the secrets of skin. They wear my DNA. The beads laugh in sunlight, promise not to break their promises.
This strand was a keepsake for our anniversary. Always, forever dripped from our lips, easy as beads slipping onto their binding filament. When the thread snaps, everything scatters, rolls to remote corners. Some beads are never retrieved.
Beads worn smooth by devout fingers. Morning ritual. Each morning another bead in life’s strand. Each bead a prayer, a tiny drop in god’s ear. Does god hear? Each bead has its mission of worry and faith. A day’s peace purchased bead by bead.
Beads are the blind eyes of god. Stars blinking in the night sky. Each casts its light. Small planets in this spinning universe, each with its own life. Do they perceive their place in the pattern any better than we? Like us, they are different together than apart. Soft clack of their music as they touch.