poem index

Stonemason

James O'Hern
My stonemason John says 
he uses Elberton granite from Georgia 
It has the best grain and lasts the longest
How long is long I ask 
Oh he says a thousand years

I want more than hard gray stone 
to guard her silence 
I want stone that stays alive 
a megalith jammed deep into earth
an antenna to amplify the signals 
emitted from her ash and bone

I went to Ireland 
looking for the perfect stone 
found stone cottages and monuments
mountains and fields of stone
continuous rows of stonewalls
wound round the island like an offering 

I found stone carvings of mermaids 
and ancient unnamed river gods  
a Sheela-na-Gig I thought I recognized 
having seen her name  
on the walls of a cave in the Dordogne
along with her portrait cut and shaped 
on the rounded surface of soft white stone  

There are no stones 
where my mother and I were born 
only the jagged edges of memory   
ground down by the desert molcajete
to caliche and polished round pebbles
leaving no trace of history 
but an abandoned pulque farm 
an adobe jail 
and a dried up river bed

From Honoring the Stones by James O'Hern. Copyright © 2004 by James O'Hern. Published by Curbstone Press. Distributed by Consortium Book Sales & Dist. Reprinted by permission of Curbstone Press. All rights reserved.

James O'Hern