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Meditation Stone


I picked it up from a roadside ditch 

one September afternoon, there beside

the creek bottom cornfield: smelling

the water, swimming in a pool

of cool air, the sunlight filtering through

the leaves, I walked in a field


given over to weeds and briars,

haunted by three chopped cars, their frames

like skulls, doors riddled with bullet holes,

beer bottles shattered by target practice.


I wanted a souvenir of the farm, of my 

boyhood among cows, corn, tobacco,

so I picked up this rock, the lower part

as brown as a farmer's face in late summer,

the upper, as white as the old man's scalp

when he takes off his cap for prayer.


I took the rock home to the city, placed it

on a stool, stared for ten minutes at a time:

eight pounds of Yadkin County, 

a hard rock, breaker of plow points,

a stone cursed and tossed into a ditch,

quartzite—sandstone compressed,

sand that settled in a shallow sea, the calm

waters lapping whispering, millions, billions.


I try for the stone's emptiness

but find myself hiking along its ridges,

making camp under a cliff,

I become a flea man climbing a face

like a pig's snout, and I say,


"Return to the rock. Now, look at it."


There are moments when, breathing,

I merely look at the rock, 

and I am quiet.


 --John Thomas York

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