Here, in my uncle’s field on the banks of Big Creek,
I learn how water does a work called redeem.
Each spring, I wait for a good rain to wash
the dirt from rock, lie in bed and listen
to the sound of falling water at night, pray
for the sifting of stone from the ground in freshly
broken fields. Come day, I walk plowed rows
and the slash of clay gullies filled with sand, finding
what lost odds-&-ends lifted from darkness
to light: rusted plows, rim sherds, buttons, marbles,
coins, arrowheads, and spoons. In a land without stone,
we prize the abiding hardness of what remains.
Long-felled heart pine cased in catfaced trunks
is our most fragrant stone, but I’ve found other gems
like bones and bricks and kernels of corn—biscuit fired
on the stalk, turned to stone in the summering oven
of the sun. We too tender a mute name like time
for the cold fire, ashless and dark, burning
in the ground. I am a gatherer of stone
whose bones will lie somewhere, white in the rain
on black earth, tumbling in the groundswell
of fields and fences beneath open sky. I am
thirty years old and keep a wooden crate of relics
in my room—not fully knowing why—but I hold
fast to what I find, reassured by iron, glass, flint,
and clay. In the browning of grass, the fallen
descend till water raises each to rest in the sun’s
buoyant light. In darkness, I lie and listen to mending rain.
I hear a word, redeem, in the watery sound, and then—
even I am pulled like a stone from the ground.