Today William Stafford's many stones
made a marker under the skylight, one
of those stacks of relatively flat rocks
here & placed us
just so for reasons
we don't understand.
For reasons I don't understand
the word for that rock pile skips
over my tongue, hits the back
of my throat, lifts again to nick
along molars, but refuses
(even silently in letters soft-leaded
on the page) to form. It is a hierarchy
of rocks, smallest on top, largest footprint
on the bottom, more in the middle space.
I know you can see what I cannot find.
I will blame this lapse of easy-word
catching on the ceiling fan, not on the sun
or the earth or the sky turned down
like an ironware bowl glazed blue
and fired with runnels in tact. Not on
a dead poet's crows or stones. It is all
a balancing act - the remembered, what
is not, the naming of acts, after effects,
how soon one topples, or stands.
Is it enough that I know there is a word
for such a marker stacked out of stones?
After all, it's not the compilation I admire
in the end, but the elements, stone by stone
that cause my heart to cave in.
[after reading three Stafford poems: "Things That Happen Where There Aren't Any People", "The Early Ones", and "Notice What This Poem is Not Doing" from Contemporary American Poetry, Fifth Edition]