the wisdom of stones

no, you speak not a word to me,
not a sound comes forth
beyond your suggestive silence

without pattern or pretence
defensive you stand,
solemn sentinel of centuries past

the wisdom of ancient stone
is broadsome and bold
molding the land into clans

shaping history with mysteries
untold and untoward
whispered by simpering spirits

who demand, why are you here
what beckons you thus
unencumbered by all that we have seen

I fall to my knees, pleased to bow,
for all that I am derives
my dearly departed, from you

the Grey Cairns of Camster, the Highlands (May 2015)

prayerful stones

i remember the wind
whipping across my kilted legs
laughing at my zeal to recapture
a long-forgotten past

and the gorse glowing
stubbornly under a shrouded sky
blossoms jealously reaching
for your gentle touch

further and further north
we climbed through glens
of the truest highland green
to distant john o’groats

past braemore and dunbeath
around cairn and broch
bending this way and that
seeking the end of the world

but most of all i remember you
smiling before a distant bridge,
i see you there radiant and true
and ever more beautiful still

i watch you waiting there—
the green hills rolling behind you,
as quiet moss in lazy patches
crawls up a roughhewn arch

the stones kneel in steady prayer
longing ever for your touch
for stones know how to pray slowly—
the only prayer that truly matters

they pray for your return,
beloved Laya, as most certainly do i
every moment you are gone
from my side

2015.05.21 John O'Groats 019b

On the road to John O’Groats, Scotland


One sunny day I knelt along the shore, entranced by the colors glistening beneath the waves. A man was there, his thinning grizzled hair clinging moistly to his scalp. He sat among the stones, a smoldering cigarette dangling from his cracked lips. As I watched, he reached beneath the water, pulled out a single slick stone striped white and black and dripping still as he turned and stood it gently in the sand. Then he retrieved another—this one mottled magenta and cream—and balanced it atop the first. A third stone he stood on the second, his fingers slowly settling it in place, deftly shifting it slightly here, slightly there until the other stones ceased wobbling, content at last with the weight of this one standing over them.

And as the old man gradually pulled his hand away, I realized that I had become frozen there, the waves lapping at my feet, my eyes glued to that minute rocky monument. And to the shriveled hands that had erected it. Staring quite enviously until a particularly strong wave nearly toppled me into the sand. Breathing again, I settled down as I had seen him do. And like him, I chose my stones with care, contemplating their tones and textures, their sizes and shapes, before applying them to the sand. My monument grew, and unhappy with its minute size, I altered its structure. I set two pillars beside one another and a lintel over them, and on that lofty foundation, I stood two more pillars and yet another lintel. And when it was done, I smiled. And awaited my deserved praise.

The next day I returned to that beach. Wandered to that exact spot. And found my stones scattered by the waves. Disgruntled I knelt in the sand, felt the tiny edges of tiny pebbles cutting into my knees. A cold wave reached me, smelling of brine. When it receded, I picked up one of my stones—my favorite one—and cast it into the waves. Grunting as I stood, I glanced over and was amazed to see the old man’s tiny edifice still standing. Three stones, each a different combination of colors that I would never have found suitable. Three distinct sizes and shapes, with corners and curves I would have thought vulgar. Yet they withstood the waves and the winds and the crumbling sands. Together they were perfect.

I was old by then. Not as old as he, but old enough to recognize the hands of a craftsman, the shoulders of a builder, the eyes of an artist. And I know what I had seen him do. While I tried to deny it for sometime, eventually I became resigned to the truth. So I stopped. I ceased erecting those ridiculous monuments to my own arrogance. And envy. But I do still return to that shore. Eager now to do so. To catch a glimpse of his latest musings. Of three unremarkable stones, disparate pieces made whole by his gentle touch.

No good reason for this, perhaps. I just wanted you to know why. Why it had to be like this. Why this had to end.

Salt Lake City 12 Dec 2012