The 4th Migrating Stone
We are pilgrims travelling
to Iona. Travelling from womb
to world, from world to whatever
comes next. They say
energy never dies ,it just
changes shape. Human,
stone, tree. Mosquito,
rain, pig. Negotiations of form
are endless. We bring
a migrating stone. It’s journey
began in the waters
of Glastonbury. Before that
in dynamite, in a digger’s teeth,
in stratified layers beneath Bath.
Before that coral, sea-creatures, calcite.
So far it has taken three
hundred and fifty million
years to get here.
A foundling left
on the side of a mountain
basketless, swept from its mother's side
to this unfamiliar hide
of turf and scree:
scooped into the glacier's
and held there by crystal teeth,
in pre-nuptial whiteness
so white and densely light
it was darker than black,
then lugged across land
by an unstoppable saw:
gorge maker, canyon maker,
the whole country
might have split in two
if the sun hadn't applied its brake,
licking the glacier to river,
lake and leaving you,
little erratic, to wake
in an unfamiliar place:
a stone flown through solid air.
A child laughs as a crested cargo of stone
streams past, one open-topped carriage
after the next, peaks pointing to the sky,
snow-white rock resplendent in rusty rolling stock.
We watch the earth progress while we stand still,
passengers patient as cattle behind a yellow line,
the time of our own train progressively delayed.
The long line of freight trounces by like a scene
from a dream: one where people cannot move
and the land, more skilled in perpetual motion,
rises up and rolls by.
A city of stars sings above
and in return I imagine my own light
soaring into the black -
not with rockets, fuel and radars
but the thermodynamic radiation of spirit,
as if nowhere is too far.
I turn my gaze from sky to Earth.
A chorus of rocks surrounds me -
each one bears a face
and those whose finer traces have been erased
take a grasses' shadow for mouth or eye.
I study each one carefully -
they vary from the most serene
to the most grotesque
and not one will speak
though many mouths are open.
I wonder if I have strayed
into some ancient and watery grave
but there is nothing dead here;
each rock recording the passage of people and things,
my own face imperceptibly lifting
from this bag of skin and bone
to be carved, by an unseen hand,
into the library of stone.
there's a stone hitching a ride in my shoe -
nagging my heel
with its intransigent edges,
dimpling hardened skin
to make a space for itself -
stone no bigger than a sequin
day-tripping from one street to the next
She continues walking through the woods
until it seems more accurate to say
the woods are walking through her -
green leaves turning, autumn sun
streaming through gaps in the trees.
Persistent as air, persistent as soil -
this intermingling of person and thing.
She comes to rest in Paradise Bottom,
sits beneath a beech by the shore of a pond.
Light softens. The gift of shade, chiaroscuro,
stone ledges braided with flickering seams.
Dragonflies skittle brief new bodies in and out
of reeds and she closes her eyes. Unsure
if the thoughts in her head belong to her
or ths mulch of earth, leaf and light.
"The mode of perceiving nature, under the rule of private property and money, is a real contempt for, and practical degradation of, nature."
And stones moved silently across the world
hurled into an empty ship's weightless hold
folded into a glacier's freezing fist
quick-pocketed by tourists and children
with an eye for things shiny and round.
Bound for other lands stones sailed without papers
traffickers in freedom crossing borders
with no regard for guards
guard dogs or guns. Dumb as the tongueless
their acts alone sounded the long, low cry.
Each stone carried centuries of weight
and meaning. Ballast from Bristol belly-up
in New York's East River, erratics paused
on the slopes of Cader Idris, fingers of quartz
startling my window sill - all of them travelled
from the place where they began, where we might
have said they belonged. Migrating past line,
border, boundary, their movements a constellation
of questions; where is home, what is home,
and who in this world can claim land as their own?
Howard Parson, Marx and Engels on Ecology
(Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press 1977) 17-18
Some scientists suggest
that plesiosaurs swallowed
ballast to keep them
from rising to
the surface when they were
engaged in underwater
flying, thus enabling
them to travel more
efficiently in a horizontal
obliterating the infernal
tendency of air
to make all things
rise - and I wonder
if the same
might be true
iof my inability
to forget you: small stones
counter memory's lack
of gravity - leaving me
image free and finally able
to journey without you.
The quest is to understand myself not as a single thing, a single point, but rather a constellation, a layered interruption in time comprising everyone and everything I encounter.
When I said I wanted to leave home my mother wept. I have never seen such a storm on the mountain and I feared she would not let me go. The tears she cried froze around me and I was swaddled in ice for a thousand years.
Saddled in pure white, I rode the back of the Earth until sun turned my horse into water.
It broke my mother's heart to see me leave and that breaking made my journey possible.
When I arrived in the foreign land I knew no-one. All I had to offer were songs and stories from my mother-land. For a long time they could not understand what I was saying. They thought their world and their ways were the only ones and feared I might want to change them.
Exchange, I said, that is what I want.
Everything I have come to understand as being one way is no longer that way. The straight line becomes a curve, the contradiction becomes coherent, poverty becomes wealth. This is the great law of reversal my ancestors spoke of. It is essentially expansive, essentially ignorant of boundary, essentially counter to almost everything we have come to believe.
Why, under reversal's banner even God has descended from a heaven in the sky to live as a worm in the earth.
One day men came. They dug metal stakes into the ground around me and joined them with a rope.
But the rope that separates is the rope that joins.
Particles of myself ride the wind into homes and hands of strangers. Rain washes me into the earth and the earth's fast running rivers. I record the touch of a hand, step of fly, scud of clouds. I have small pockets that catch words from a walker's lips, light from the moon's bright lyre.
No one thing immediately changes into another. A million steps are taken until you reach the place where one more step takes you across the border.
Edges change day by day by day. The wall falls down. The gate opens. The ocean eats the coast and the volcano spawns a new island.
Negotiations of form are endless.
We learned to be patient as stars. We sat in silence for the coming and going of many suns. We spoke when we were moved and there was no need for translation: instead a direct transfusion of meaning passed between us.
Crow, cloud, thunder.
In this way we shared truths we did not know we knew but were set upon this orbiting planet to discover.
I remember the land and the land remembers me. Together we make memory. My heart lights up at the sight of so many friends who
greet me along the way.
I am not the first stone to speak and I will not be the last