Andrew Frisardi

The Jeweler

From poshness up at Sotheby Parke Bernet
To jostles down on Forty-seventh Street,
The Brazilian’s workshop is a world apart,
Several stories up an office block
Whose elevators turn to iron cauldrons
When summer weather stews the city in smog.
On the street, in throngs of long black coats, Hasidim
Pass around fat envelopes of diamonds
As casually as if they’re sharing lunch.

Above, Haraldo’s working at his bench, a loupe
Wedged against his eyeball, plying metals.
In keeping with his Latin looks, his shop
Is charmingly Old Worldy, nonchalant,
The odd appurtenances of his trade 
Scattered about the place in easy chaos.
He works the silver, platinum, or gold,
Pouring a pile of brilliants for pavé
Like crumblets sprinkled from a dragon’s mouth.
He sets a ruby big as a thumbnail,
Knowing its truest red appears by angling,
Nudging it like fishing line, a lure
Or bait that’s cast strategically in water.
He might hold up an emerald in a cleft
Between his fingers near his knuckle bones
And dandle it in daylight by a window,
Its color like a patch of Irish grass,
Or else green fire from Venus an astronaut
Trapped and carried back, its coals intact.
He deftly tweezes it between the prongs
He’s wrought. The art’s to make it natural,
He thinks: disguise the flaws and angle the light.

Sometimes you’ll find Haraldo there with Jain,
A youngish Indian who lives in Queens,
Polite and gentle, often with a bag
Of gemstones—star sapphires, black pearls, or garnets
From Russia, the pine-green ones called demantoid
(You tell them by the horsetail shapes inside),
And rubies Jain will claim, rolling his r’s,
Are nothing less than “Burmese. Guaranteed.”

One August day Haraldo had his smock on,
Sweating like he’d been welding auto parts.
Jain’s head was down like someone had just died,
Which someone almost had. In Jain’s building
A dealer had been robbed the night before,
His safe left like a junked refrigerator.
“He was the last one open,” Jain explained.
“They held him up at gunpoint, bound and gagged him . . .
Young, too . . . with wife and kids . . . you never know.”

Jain paused, his face and shirt still neat though drenched
With sweat, his manner steady-as-you-go.
Haraldo, meanwhile, seemed about to snap—
A combination of the news and heat.
“It’s asinine what easy hits we are,”
He muttered, glancing at his bench’s bunch
Of old-cut diamonds from an antique brooch,
Their idiosyncratic shapes a play
Of polar light sequestered in the ozone.
“I work alone here evenings sometimes too.”
He picked a diamond up. “It’s just a rock,”
He said, “but it makes people go berserk
To get it. Money talks but jewels sparkle.”

Andrew Frisardi is from Boston and currently lives in central Italy. His most recent books are a poetry collection, The Harvest and the Lamp (Franciscan UP, 2020), and a prose volume, Love’s Scribe: Reading Dante in the Book of Creation (Angelico Press, 2020).