In league with the stones

For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.
Job 5:23

Dear Teju,

Rocks are the roofs of a city
we barely know. On a dry ridgetop
at the end of a dry month,
I find little under them but burrows
leading deeper into the earth,
a colony of ants frantic
at the sudden inversion,
and on the talus slope, more rocks:
a puzzle that was put together wrong
8,000 years ago, but over the millenia
has settled into its own kind
of rightness. I follow a bear’s trail
through the woods, marked by black
cherry-pitted cairns of bear shit,
& note the series of overturned rocks,
flipped by an expert claw.
Only a human, uneasy at the way
our grotesque bodies no longer
quite fit into the matrix,
would ever return a flipped rock
to its bed. Birds have nests,
foxes have holes; culture
is not a thing unique to humans.
The song that makes the songbird
must be taught. Instinct borrows
always from improvisation —
the true two-step. But watch
a human child, too young
to hunger for our made world’s
humdrum El Dorados, playing
in the creek with a stick —
how she projects her dreams
into the teeming, pulsing flow,
how she punctuates
& fabricates — & tell me
this is not more wondrous
than any gold, this human
being!

12 Comments


  1. For a better view of that katydid on the talus slope, by the way, see here.

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  2. I love your rock flipping day post! Thanks so much for sharing the anticipation of each discovery with us.

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  3. You see, in Pennsylvania you’ve got those really *old* rocks, which are better for flipping. We’re a little rock-handicapped here in the Willamette valley.

    “… our made world’s
    humdrum El Dorados…”

    Is what struck deepest, in the poem, for me.

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  4. Indeed more wondrous than gold. What a great addition to the flippin’rock day, Dave. Lovely little film, in every way.

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  5. 1) I want your mother. Now, here. Although London pavements only flip when you least expect or want it so maybe I’ll have to move there.
    2) While watching the video before reading the poem I marvelled at the tenderness with which the rocks were unflipped. I’m not sure it’s always entirely uneasyness, such tenderness, is it?
    3) No. There is nothing more wonderous.

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  6. Rocks are the roofs of a city/we barely know

    That has to be a prime contender for the epiphany-of-the-event. I really like the ways you’ve seen things — the talus as a muddled puzzle, the way only humans replace rocks, the ants frantic (the perfect word). A poem dense with imagery and insight. Wonderful, Dave.

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  7. I’d about have to think there might be something positive about a flipped, un-repositioned rock. Maybe I’m just a natural born apologist for modernity and as you know… I’m no entomologist nor ecologist, but I’m sure I’ve read a paleontologist who wrote that plants and animals once capitalized on the opportunities which turned up in the havoc wreaked by gomphotheres and mastodons: access to foodstuffs, new places to settle, and that they miss it now, that the present stability is sterile.

    I know the IRFD hasn’t been around long enough for wrens and robins — or molds or who knows! — to get in sync and take advantage, and yes, I know, nipple-toothed bulldozers are doing the work of mastodons and then some — I’m just looking at it from the other side.

    OK — Done — All put back.

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  8. “More wondrous
    than any gold, this human
    being!”

    I flashed on that scene from Silas Marner where Silas loses his gold. He awakens, and confused, for a moment reaches out to tentatively touch the pale blond hair of the sleeping child Eppie, thinking he had found it. Little did he know he had.

    Yea! I had previously “borrowed” the still photo of last year’s Marsha expedition with grand children to illustrate my silly song here at home printer publishing house. Now I have a movie and an actual poem to go with!

    If a poem can be judged by how many ideas spring up from its metaphors, this one is pretty much gold. Its juxtaposition with mother and niece panning for gold bugs in the stream would indicate you drived much inspiration there also. I identified with Marsha’s statement that she keeps on rock flipping when the little one is on to something else. That’s how I acquired my expanded Cub Scout rock collection. (grin)

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  9. There *is* nothing like water. True dat.

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  10. Wonderful poem and video, Dave. Like Pete I really liked the first line, and watching the rock-flipping, but it was also great to read through the comments and hear your niece’s little excited voice in the background saying “I found one!”

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  11. The video was wonderful as was the scripture and poem. Once i started looking at everyone’s posts I started thinkng video might be a good way to capture scurriers to difficult to photograph and now I see the scurriers also include curious, engaged, golden children.

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