Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tim Anderson, "Skipping Stones"

Yesterday I taught my daughters
To skip stones
At a place where they were heaped up
Smooth and flat.

We sent them spinning onto the water
Each one telling the same little life story
The first explosive contact
And in success, a second, then a third

Footprints in the wavelets
Describe a tightening
arc as the steps slow to a shuffle
Some go on and on and fade like it’s on purpose
Some make it fast with a plop
But it’s all the same sad comedy
Of resistance

Today the smooth ones are harder to find.
My twelve year old finds
A rock that marks the others
And scratches her name on a skipping stone

Will this one skip?
Oh, yes

She scribes my name on a stone
Presents it to me
and it moves me – seeing my name in her hand
The letters definite and jaunty
Like tiny bones of the self

Inspired now
She kneels by the water
Scribing the names of each of us

Skip us she says
Make us skip
And hesitant at the omen

One by one I turn these tiny children over in my hand
Send my beloved over the waves
hurl my stone self in this little proxied life

How we move!
We dodge the wavelets
Spank the water with a sunny grin

But the same story forms with every skipping beat
The shortened step

The direct purpose becomes a convex decay

And our skittering lives slide
Until, still spinning
We sink back to the formless deep
Soundless beneath the unfeeling wind

And we are only a name etched upon a stone
A life written in water

She kneels there, watching the place
Where our destiny quietly swallowed us
where we lie silent
And the wind rustles the fine hairs
At the nape of her neck

I want to tell her
She is something holy
Someone beautiful
But my tongue suffers under its own weight
My language cannot stay straight

In a task where the essence
Is to be light as light
I must fail, like stones

Only this heap of heavy words remains
A marker of what I knew just then