Poem of Stone and Softness

 "When we build, let us think that we build forever...."
               ~ John Ruskin, from The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849)

"The beauty of a place is welded into us..."
                ~ Romeo Oriogun

Mountains, too, are architecture.
The highest ones hold centuries of sediment 
and rock, handprints of those who carved roads 
and resting places. Octaves of fiddlehead fern, 
papery trumpet flowers; trees from which 
revolutionaries belled their bodies 
in the wake of cannon fire and shipwreck. 
There's a city in the midwest and a tower 
overlooking a river, its walls 
studded with stones from distant 
parts of the world. One carries
the bloom of blood spatter, 
like other stones from a beach
in Corregidor with a view of Caballo 
island. Another comes from 
the ruins of Cuartel de Santa 
Lucia, turned barracks in an old 
war. For what do we change such
fragments into monuments
that catch afternoon light
bouncing off the water?  
When I came here, I thought
I could shield part of myself
from the disembodiments 
wrought by exile— fold it in 
a bit of cloth or a box, keep it
from conscription into 
the kind of labor demanding 
exchange of what tenderness
remains, for these mirages
of flint and steel.


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