STONE

NAOMI BUCK PALAGI

BLAZEVOX[BOOKS]
Buffalo, New York

Stone
by Naomi Buck Palagi
Copyright © 2017
Published by BlazeVOX [books]
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without
the publisher’s written permission, except for brief quotations in reviews.
Printed in the United States of America
Interior design and typesetting by Geoffrey Gatza
Cover Art from “Three Invitations” by Janet Buck
First Edition
ISBN: 978-1-60964-242-6
Library of Congress Control Number: 2016952161
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Kenmore, NY 14217
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stonework
rock and rock and rock and rock
nestled up against each other, gritty, some
a little warm in the sun, some
shadowed, lichen-covered
rock walls wend through the low meadow, curving
this way, splitting off into two here, over there, the
rock walls. not more than two feet high, but everywhere.
a few little clearings where the earth rises, where we sit.
the young cabin behind us has heard
so many things.
in the dawn there are deer or wild turkey, at night
coyotes, and foxes.
in the dawn we sit, looking out over the walls, so many walls -see how they wind along.
with this slight chill we might
lift sandstones, rub
them together, warm
our skin with the orange dust.
the sun begins to just warm our faces.
by noon we might wish to lay our hands on the cool
limestones tucked along the bottom. truly
the sky a thrilled blue now.
the tops of the trees rustling brightly.
so many walls, each way we turn.
stumbling height.

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stumbling height
here they are, these stones lying around, hard, partly smooth,
like we are supposed to use them -- heave them
out of the ground and kick
the dirt off, like someone left them here for us.
there are things we could make with these, but they are so
heavy. we can roll them next to each other. we can pile them up,
with help. if they are not sturdy we can
cement them with a mortar of whatever we find: sod, mud,
manure, clay.
we can make them very high
and strong; make a hole in the middle for fire, a bigger
hole for living. build a wall.
some walls are so tall if you climb up on them you
leave the earth behind — stride through clouds.
in the middle of a field, dirt and grass, we might find a rock.
large, flat, so oddly here.
as if we should greet it, as if
we could take it home with us and set it
on a stump in our home and smooth it and touch it and
eat from it.
we could feel
safe, like we never did before.

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coal
found in the yard,
an annual allotment of fuel, glistening.
it is not like rock.
touching coal is touching bodies, plants, muck, all
pressed down for millennia before it came here
to disappear as heat.
nightmares of a long slide, metal, a little lip for sides, a long,
long way down. children falling down this slide, we can never
catch up.
the sky so gray, snow
would be a relief, a reason
to feel cold, to throw another lump in the fire and stop
trying. if we could sit still, sip tea,
watch out the window.
if the pressing could be of us, and we
could become so hard, so warming, so black.

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Travelling
The girl shot out from between her mother’s bloodied legs,
stumbling about, bellowing like a blind bear shaking her head to
clear her eyes that wouldn’t clear. She charged ahead, swiping at
life, growling and laughing belly-full at the grasses and leaves that
brushed her sightless face. She grew with the forward motion and
nothing hurt her calloused feet; the sun tanned her unharmed
hide; the girl made it her business to be happy. The girl charged
right into a wall.
She’d been going toward it all along, never saw it coming, just felt
the sun and the grass, caressed the jutting stones in the field with
her bare feet ‘til she ran smack into the wall. Bloodied her nose.
Cracked up her knee. She backed up a step or two and put her
hands out to feel this thing.
Cool, smooth, tall. Taller than she could reach. Gently she
pushed at the lower portion with her wounded leg; it seemed this
wall was solid down to the ground.

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hollow
ground. down to a pulp. down to a little pile
of bare white bones, picked clean. down to the bottom
of a dry river bed.
we skimmed down the river, just one time, all of us, neighbors,
friends, boyfriends, some of us sitting on innertubes, some of us
dangling our legs.
the river just deep enough to rest elbows on innertubes and touch
the marble slate flooring, soft cover of algae and mud
slipping along with us,
feet sliding in the current. laughter
echoing down the river, dodging driftwood.
we might all forget.
what happens when the river is dry?
cradle the bones, carry them. throw them,
when needed, on a stone table and read
what it is to stay here.
grind, drink them,
when needed, and with the dregs flare up a
dying fire.
hollow. ground.
a valley filling.

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carried.
on the grayed and greening
planks, nailed to creosote
telephone poles sawed
at stair step
height, we sit
staggered by the immensity
of our location
looking out on open fields.

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looking out
yellow
and orange earth, sandstones
marking deaths and not far off
the cemetery
of childhoods, where flowers
bloomed and we picked them, roses
and daffodils, we gave them,
every one. looking out, we sit
staggered by the immensity
of our location; we see
beyond the short stone path,
muddied.

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sandskin
watch
the colors play
across her face
the liquid
before the sandstone stills;
desert palette from which
she made her choices, the rivulets
down which dry streams run flush
twice a year.
to touch
a sister’s skin
is too much
at a moment.
here in this green
and rocky field
brilliant flood
of her golden eyes turned
to puma, the bones
beneath her skin so set.
the sun
has been harsh here
and healing.

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the old housesite
through
the basin, along
the rutted old road til
you hit the right rise of ground,
and turn in. after that it is all
sense memory.
she can do it every
time and I follow and we
rip our skin
on briars the goats
never venture far enough to find. edging
sinkhole swales and dodging
the worst of the downed trees, we enter
a copse of vines-- quinquifolia, ivy, wild grape-and emerge
in a clearing.
daffodils
carpet the floor, sun
streams through the high canopy, and the stones.
rocks, as big as us, tumbled
down in an unlikely pile, painted soft
in dark moss.
our seats shaded
by a twisted cedar, we crush juniper berries
with our fingernails and hold them to our faces.
this, they say, is the burned down home of a man
who worked five wives to death.

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Keeping Safe
There was an older couple who’d set up house in a cabin at the
edge of the field, a few yards from the wall. They would stoke the
fire in the morning for their breakfast and in the evening treat
themselves to the extra heat of a small lump of coal. They sipped
their chicory coffee, roasted from scavenged cornflower roots dug
up beside the road that travelled through Back Fresh.
When they found the girl they let her sleep on the porch that first
night. They’d heard her singing as she ran toward the wall; she
was silent now. Over the next days they watched her feel her way
up and down the length of it. They helped her gather stones for a
firepit, tie together a teepee of sticks to feel protected from the
coyotes. They watched her descend into the lethargy inevitable in
meeting such a wall.
Throughout their hours they gathered, they hunted, they
prepared food -- always finding a little to spare for the blind girl.
Over an evening feast of wild turkey eggs, she sighed, and smiled
again.
The older couple who’d set up house a few yards from the wall
turned their attention once more to the wall.

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our father
in the middle of a field, dirt and grass, we might find
a rock. large, flat, so oddly here.
as if we should greet it, as if
our father were here
under the rock
arms and legs flailing
periodically, head
free to move except for this rock
pinning his chest. as if
we could take this rock home and set it
on a stump in our home and smooth it and touch it and
our father still there, in the field, flailing.
we would eat our meals on the stone table, feel
so safe and our father
still pinned in the field, flailing.
these rocks,
they lie hard.

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day one
into the earth she goes, a mite
down an eardrum. of all the sinkholes, she picked
one with the most rocks, most
covered in moss, perhaps least
likely to shift. behind the cabin, it is
just a little hole, twisting down and she
climbs in, her camera
ready, her father
watching, a cut of cardboard
with the date drawn on it
waiting at the top.
the first day of every month she descends
and documents, not even a rope
securing herself to the surface, a year
inside the sinkhole.

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