Here the Stones Are Different

After unpacking for five days

we drive to a park.  It’s a miracle

that we get there; locals honk


when we slow to read road signs,

and still we turn left

when we should have turned right. 


We’re desperate.  We’ve grown sick

of newness.  Even the stones here

are different—sharp-edged and broken,


like stoneware against a wall. 

We walk carefully, step lightly, reach

for tree trunks burnished by other hands. 


At the shore, water churns against water,

rock against rock, and as with the candle

and crucifix we found in the attic,


we do not know what is holy—

only that all here is old and once

was touched by someone else. 


So we do as we’ve always done,

at different shores, with different stones. 

We rake fingers through rock


for the flattest stones, the lightest stones,

and in the sift and the skip, in the flick

of a disc that sails horizontally,

one fingertip just touches down.  






On the drive toward the shore my father

sheds stress like snakeskin.  A rub against

the seat, a push on the pedal of the car. 

Arrived, we spread peanut butter on tortilla,

squeeze honey.  Mud scuffs my calves, cakes

my socks.  When he was young, he filleted

fish for tourists; all day he wiped scales

and mucus on crusted, greasy jeans.  Now

we eat oatmeal in mugs rinsed with coffee. 

We hike up hills, stumble down thin, winding trails. 

When I slow, he urges me forward, reminds me

to pause at the tops of the rocks.  Look,

he says. The glimmer on the horizon.

I come to expect it like a god.



Twelve years old, I slide the still-stiffening

body of my chameleon into a plastic bag.

It curves in the corner, a weight of dimes

that I carry to the backyard, behind the shed.

I dig two inches with a trowel, pat and press

with my foot, then dream of excavation:

two years and perhaps a femur stripped

to matchsticks, vertebrae shining like small

teeth in my hand.  Later, I will hesitate

in front of etymology exhibits, strain to touch

the iridescent wings of the dragonflies.

I will think of Styrofoam and sterile pins,

the need to know structure.  I will remember

the ziplock bag I left for others to find.



I plant the seeds because I require an end

to the waiting—to the silhouette of limbs

and the darkening ground.  I need concavity,

the press of soaked seeds into peat, the heat

of germination an incense for the ice. 

In the upstairs window, the crooks of their necks

nudge against earth; heads shed the husk of the shell. 

So necessary, that newness.  The unfurl

of translucent leaf.  The stretch toward the pale light

streaming through glass.  And so awful, the opposite:

green shoots grown too quickly, now wilting and weak. 

The dwindle and spindle of life in my palm.

That tray of earth, the damp desiccation

to brown, while outside, still the frost.



We are two girls, bobbing bare-breasted,

the soap slick in our hands.  We scissor lake

with thin legs; our toes graze seaweed,

knees bent and suspended in the dark gush

and swirl.  Somewhere a loon, the catch

of the breath.  Somewhere trees and their

shadows,  moths thick like the stars.  We float;

the lake laps in our ears.  Our giggles

are pebbles under the convex arc of a bat. 

We lather hair, trail braids through the water. 

Behind us, suds stream as if beads strung

from fingers.  All exhale, inhale, movement

of consciousness inward.  When we step

out and drip, we pull the cold close.  


Jennifer Case’s poetry and prose have appeared in journals such as ISLE, North American Review, Zone 3, English Journal, Poet Lore, and Stone Canoe, where her work received the 2014 Allen and Nirelle Galson Prize in Fiction. She is an Assistant Professor of Writing at the University of Central Arkansas and the Assistant Nonfiction Editor of