“Crystals Like Blood,” a twenty-seven-line free-verse lyric, develops an analogy between mechanical processes and memory to create a synthesis of external and internal experience. Standing at the grave of a person he loved, the speaker remembers finding a fragment of stone containing red crystals. As the poem unfolds, he compares the process of extracting mercury from cinnabar to the process of memory.
In a single two-line sentence, the first of the four verse paragraphs introduces the memory of discovering the stone containing the crystals but does not mention the present setting or the dead friend. In nine lines, the second verse paragraph describes the speaker’s picking up “a broken chunk of bed-rock” and examining it carefully, turning “it this way and that.” The weight of the stone surprises him. One face of it is brown limestone; the other contains crystals of “greenish-grey quartz-like stone” in which magenta lines appear. The verse paragraph confines itself to carefully chosen description without overtly introducing metaphors.
Repeating “I remember” from the opening of the poem, the third verse paragraph, ten lines, shifts to a time between the “long ago” discovery of the stone and the speaker’s present. During this intermediate time, the speaker had observed the mechanical process by which “mercury is extracted from cinnebar.” A spiderlike pile-driving machine hammered the stone to fragments of ore,...
(The entire section is 411 words.)