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"pretty is the pain that prompts the poet"

by Clairesse Schweig

The sky’s on the cusp of changing, 

Morphing from light blue to soft oranges and blush-like pinks

As I make my way to the water. 


It’s been a year since we collide,

And I still have moments, like now, 

Driving down the PCH, 

Ten miles from Laguna,

That are filled up by you. 


It’s not all bad.

Mostly, I think of my luck, 

Of how grateful I am that time is putting as much distance 

Between what was once you and I

As my car does now. 


I can see it from the stairs that urge me

From the winding road I parked my car,

And onto the soft, damp sand. 

Unlike most of the half-crushed shells or skeletons of coral 

That drift in and out, in and out, 

From sea to land with each new push and pull of the ocean,

It remains in place, 

unaffected by the strength of the tide.

A small stone, thin yet sturdy, dents the sand beneath. 


Timing my action by the tide’s retraction, 

I grab the stone, its oval shape coinciding against my left palm with ease. 

Yes, it’s thin, but it’s unbreakably strong.

The rock’s weight an indication of its ability

 to outlast the ocean’s pursuits at pulling it back to sea. 


It reminds me of the worry stone you bought me.

The small pious piece polished to fit my thumb perfectly;

Equipped with a message from the spiritual shop for the unexpecting user: 

Designed for calming a worried soul and restless mind,

Simply rub your thumb across the gently curved

indentation in the stone to encourage relaxation and stress relief.


A gift for the paranoid, it seemed to read, 

made from rose quartz for love. 


“For when you get irrational” you promised. 

How sincere, how thoughtful, how monumental, I thought. 


It was so intentional, as were the moments I found comfort in the stone.


“Perfect for when I’m with my ex and ignore your calls,”

the stone spoke.

“Ideal for when you’re too needy.”

“Great for the weeks I spontaneously choose not to love you,

Not to let you in, 

And not to tell you why.” 


You’d be absolved of the responsibility of me 

While I’d be anxious, consumed with my thumb rubbing vicariously, 

But never resulting in pleasure, only pain. 


Had the stone been replaced by any other kind of matter, 

it would have been destroyed in moments. 

Had it been a thin piece of clothing, 

it wouldn’t have taken more than a 

minute for my thumb to break through the linen. 

Had the stone been forgone altogether, 

and the inside of my left arm deemed the new place to relieve anxiety,

I would have pierced through my skin, 

rubbed straight down to the bone,


Your purposeful coldness,

Your calculated mistreatment 

Would have been more than enough 

To leave me completely gutted.


Walking parallel to the ocean, 

With the exaggerated stunt-double of your worry stone

I feel sweet waves,

Warmer than anticipated, 

Kiss my feet with each step. 

It frustrates me. 

Somehow nothing matches me. 

The sky is beautiful, the ocean calm, the sand soft. 


Did someone haunt the sun right before it began its descent? 

Somehow convinced it, 

Through inflicted pain, 

Examined grief, 

And emotional turmoil,

To paint its canvas with colors beyond belief? 

Did anyone break its heart? 


Why must I turn something devastating enough 

To take the very breath from my lungs, 

The spark from my eyes, 

And empathy from my heart, into art. 

The built-in pain would have been plenty. 

I needed no inspiration. 


Water undrinkable. 

Land unsinkable. 

Waking between sand and sea I am still somehow stuck– 


Wedged between a rock and a hard place.

Eyes peeled open by crusted fingers

Forcing me to watch the sun set over the ocean. 


It hurts, my eyes water,

Use it, the overgrown nails dig. 


It all seems very much like a Lana Del Rey song, 

Whose fresh words made me less alone in my struggles, 

More connected to my interrupted journey. 

Stoic. A romanticized island of my own. 


I can turn blue into something, she sang,

Persuading herself and her listeners that from pain appears beauty, 

From blueness, art. 

But now, in this moment, 

As I grip the stone with rage,

Curving my fingers around its smooth edges as far as they can spread–

my knuckles turning white from the pique pressure, 

I see nothing but red.

Clairesse Schweig is an Editor-in-Chief of Birdie.
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