After the bereaved leave
the beloved, after the gate locks,
when the horned moon peeks
over the horizon,
the headstones dream
about the quarry
before the cutter’s chisel
made them separate stones.

— Ron Starr, “Headstones”

Passing this curiously cleft stone, I recalled this poem I had seen years earlier on public transport as a submission in King County Metro’s competition, “Poetry on the Buses: Telling Our Stories.” What cunning stroke could have split this boulder, yet left its halves stacked neatly ajar? From what larger rock had it been rent in an even earlier era? What inexorable forces severed it from its origin and bore it away to rest forlorn upon this gloomy mountainside? How long has it stood sundered, yet united, whilst forests sprang round about, fell, and rose again? How many other passing observers has it fascinated in taciturn indifference? And for how many eons will it remain in this unlikely disunion before parting at last? In the spiralling change of human modernity, marked by the fleeting passage of mortal years, the incalculable constancy of the ageless elements remains a familiar and comforting touchstone.

Annette Lake Trail, Washington (ancestral lands of the Snoqualmie)

© 2023 Anthony Colburn (with the exception of “Headstones,” copyrighted by Ron Starr)


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