Yesterday I spent all day
collecting rocks from one
scraped stretch of our driveway to spread
along another. The sun
watched me the whole time. At first
it was just me moving
the tractor every ten minutes to dump
rocks in the loader, proving
nothing more, you could say, than that
a man can move a lot
of rocks if you give him enough time.
Worse lessons have been bought
by more than sore hands, if you follow.
Though to say I was on my own
might be stretching things a bit.
The tractor is on loan
from a friend, who himself came to help
later, bringing his girls
who ran with my kids collecting stones
behind the tractor, hurling
them into the three buckets we set
on the box blade like Skee-Ball
targets. The kids even got to steer
the tractor some. When all
the buckets were full, we laid the rock
in the muddy swale where the rain
has been trying for years to take the road.
And the sun approved, long stains
of its afternoon light by then stretched thin
on everything around us.
I kept thinking, as we worked,
of Frost’s bitter chorus
of walls and neighbors and “old-stone” fools
bent to what they knew.
Though we were making a road, at least,
a clearer passage through
the hidden fields and darker woods.
But still that primal thing
is there. When you’ve been given sweat
and rocks and care to sing
about, you sing the song you know.
Like this: I’m not alone.
May the curious prayer of work keep me
in contact with the stone
and who knows what else. Something big,
or bigger for sure than me,
which is good, and I don’t even need
to know what it might be.
Nathaniel Perry is the author of two books of poetry, Nine Acres (APR/Copper Canyon) and Long Rules: An Essay in Verse (Backwaters). Recent poems and essays appear or are forthcoming in Michigan Quarterly Review, Fourth Genre, New Letters, and Kenyon Review. He is editor of the Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review.