Skipping Stones (#30)


The first time someone said
“I can make a stone float,”
You didn’t believe them.
But part of you wanted to—

Age four, five, knowing already that,
Heavy in the hand, rocks sink;
You were nobody’s fool, acutely
Aware that a trick was afoot;

We grow jaded so early!
But oh, succor, that
Small part of our brains
Willing to be persuaded—

So we watch, snapped from
The wrist, rifled, centrifugal,
The stone skips, spinning,
Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!

Across the water,
Marvelous reward for the
Willing disbeliever!
From that instant on,

As teenagers, adults,
We fall in love again, every time;
Counting each skip, each ripple,
Eyes wide as children.


Counting each skip, each ripple,
As though something were at stake.
Silly, to think how in sixth grade,
My class was challenged by our

Principal, to beat him in
Rock skipping—On the line?
A two thousand word essay, versus
Dinner of the student’s choosing.

Only three kids took him on,
And when my friend Matt won,
He requested surf and turf
With aristocratic nonchalance,

Taking great satisfaction in his
Lobster tail and tenderloin
As our principal, with teacher’s wages,
Blanched at the eighty dollar check.

So simple, to wing a stone
Sideways, askew, slipping,
Under-arcing, overreaching—
Everyone wants one more throw.


I spent my stone-skipping youth
On the banks of the Greenbrier,
Pocahontas County, West Virginia,
Where fractured slate was as

Abundant as stars,
Shining wet along the bank—
Practice, endless practice,
Smooth-edged squares,

Triangles, parallelograms,
The dark water swallowing
Each emotionlessly,
Only the smallest glub

As each stone disappeared,
Never to be reclaimed—
Never to be skipped again—
By me, I mean.


I was mostly married, once,
To a woman who took her
Stone skipping quite seriously,
Though she tried very hard

Not appear so. Thinly veiled,
Delighting in victory with a
Sinuous happy dance,
Two stepping on the muddy

Shore as she tallied each skip,
Counting thirty when I called “twenty nine”,
Innocuous, close as ripples,
Fading in the silky current.


Now my son tells me,
“Dad, did you know you can
Skip rocks along the road?”
And he shows me, this teenager,

Against a black river of macadam,
Sparking the asphalt
With tiny fires, igniting the
Atmosphere in its wake


What joy, forgetting what we know—
Kiss! Kiss! Twenty two kisses.
No, twenty three! Watch.
I can make a stone float.

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