Heart Like an Oyster (poem)

by | Jul 11, 2023 | 6 Pure in Heart, Poetry

Heart Like an Oyster
J. Marshall Jenkins


Your heart is no mere blue thistle surprise
on an altar with lilacs, lilies, and leaves,
all of which will die soon after the church
service ends. No, your heart is an oyster
among oysters resting on coral and sharp rocks
in waters brackish like forgotten coffee,
surviving. It opens when hungry, snaps shut
when something suspicious stirs the water.
Nevertheless, drill worms penetrate its armor,
and it survives and – as far as beauty
is concerned – thrives by lavishing the worm
with mother-of-pearl, and, taking its time,
encasing parasite in pearl to keep
within until some hand after beauty
pulls the oyster out of salt water and
opens it in the same light that feeds
and features thistles, lilacs, lilies, and leaves.

Pearl oyster open with pearl

Open oyster with pearl

Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God (Matthew 5:8).

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Top: Photo by Ben Stern on Unsplash. Public Domain.

Bottom: Famartin, Pearl oyster with pearl inside at the USS Bowfin Submarine Museum and Park in Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii, 2021, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.



  1. Cinda McGuinn

    Dear Marshall, Lovely poem. You are turning into a wonderful poet. One thing, however, is that this poem makes me hungry for oysters and July is the wrong season for an oyster roast. My dad used to have oyster roasts when I was a child and I love oysters. I hope you live near the coast and can enjoy the bounty of the sea. We are in the mountains near the Tennessee line so scooting down to Varnum on the Lockwood Folly to get seafood right off of the boats is not doable like it was in Lumberton. Are you at the Goose this year. I no longer have camping buddies so I’m staying up here where a heat wave is when the temp. tops out at 80. I hope you are having a great summer.

    • J. Marshall Jenkins

      Hey, Cinda. Actually, I don’t like to eat oysters. Sorry. So I was insensitive to the cravings this poem might cause. But I wish you a hearty oyster roast in due season! We could not attend the Goose this year. In fact, we were in the higher elevations too, in Sewanee, Tennessee, where Wanda participated in an Episcopal musician’s conference. Hopefully, we will meet at the Goose again someday. Thanks for your kind words about my poetry. Your support means so much.


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