Sailing Stones

inspired by/after Dave Bonta’s poem “Death Valley” and an oil painting by Robert Rhodes titled “Monica alone, quietly reciting the rosary

Nothing absent-minded in the way the freezing weather
forms the fingers of divinity, each sailing stone
a bead, the midnight breeze a thread on which they

slide, dried mud caked and cracked: chapped skin
beneath a magnifying glass. Mala, rosary, prayer beads,
not Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist—before doctrines

and divisions, night-wind prayed the stones. Tourists
gather, film the still geology, geography of awe. Our
eyes can’t track the motion of these beads, ears have never

heard the words of corresponding prayers. Nothing absent-
minded, only other-minded, inaudible invocations we would
not understand. Racetrack Playa rosary—is this wildfire

a butter lamp, a votive lit for that ancient juniper once
buried at La Brea? Could the fault-line tremors be repeated
kneeling on some ground we have not recognized as holy?

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