A poem a day in April from Rutgers English PhD students and friends.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

#13 – In which I track the life of a small rock

This morning I kicked a pebble on the walk to school,
A pebble that hovered and hopped and settled in the crack
Between the cement curb and the asphalt street.
I forgot about that pebble. (That’s a lie.)

That pebble will stay in rest for all of the hot summer,
Even when the rain floods the storm drains, even
When the children scuff up and down the street kicking
At the soccer ball, because that pebble is firmly wedged

Next to a glass shard, a dandelion root, and seven other
Pebbles. In January a municipal snow plow will dislodge
The pebble, leaving a third of it behind. (Which part
Is the original pebble?) The larger half will gather salt

Residue on the plow front and eventually will be
Deposited in a snow bank by the river. In spring the bank
Melts and the pebble is carried into the swollen river
Where it tumbles along the riverbed, losing more of

Its shape and size. After three weeks that pebble
Will arrive at the river delta, enter brackish water, and
Come to stop in the sandy shallows near the base shafts
Of ocean reeds. In this calm water the pebble will

Stay for eight years, growing smoother and paler and
Lichen covered. One October, a man hunting crabs will
Spear one just next to the pebble, and in scooping up his
Crab, will carry the pebble from riverbed to plastic container.

The pebble will be driven to a suburban home and left in its bucket
In a garage, where there lives a cocker spaniel, who, smelling the
Crab that was just removed from the bucket, takes to licking
The container’s walls and bottom. That pebble is swallowed by

The dog, reduced in size as it moves through the GI tract,
And deposited one evening later in the backyard, a part of
Bongo’s (this is the dog’s name) daily bowel movement.
The turd is found four days later by the owner, scooped

Into a reused grocery bag and left at the curb for trash pickup.
After four months in the dump, the turd decomposes, leaving
The pebble alone and enclosed in the plastic bag. After
Two more years, the bag cracks and splits from the heat,

And April rain pushes the pebble to a different part of the dump,
Where it is covered over by other trash and mixed with
Coffee grounds and newsprint. Occasionally shifting
As the trash settles and decomposes, the pebble stays here for

Fifty-one years. At that point, I pass away in a hospital bed,
And my nephew finds this poem in my desk drawer,
And two days later as he walks to his car after the funeral,
He kicks a pebble and watches it skip. (This is true.)

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