Stones: A Poem

Nicholas Powers Apr 6, 2010


Today a father showed me his son by lifting stone,

hand-sized rocks mostly but we moved boulders to.

He apologized for passing the weight to us

saying he piled the debris to keep dogs from eating

his child, mashed in the rubble of their home.

Breathing hard he forearmed sweat from his eyes,

pointed to a mummy-like face in the dark crevice.

As I kneeled, the driver sucked his teeth and left.

Notebook open, I wrote “dead three months,

prune dry skin ripped to skull, face of petrified agony.”

I’m only describing his decay not his life

These words            

                         …chiseled from

          the walls                            

                      that fell   

     on him   

We stood in the bright heat; translator and driver,

me and the father, heads bowed in silence.

I asked, “Tell me of your son, who was he?”

The father spoke through the translator, “His name

was Jean, he had a learning disorder, was slow and

always he was embarrassed that his younger brother

was smarter and took the lead but Jean loved to eat

rice and le gume. The day he died, his mom made

his favorite meal, I asked him why are you smiling,

he said today my belly will be full and…” he paused

to breathe “the earthquake hit.”

We stood in the bright heat staring at the face

of Jean, mouth open, who died screaming for help

knowing he grows louder in the echoing void of eternity

until he is pulled out, cleaned, blessed and given

by his father to the ancestors waiting in the Light.

The father begged neighbors for help since they knew

his son as a boy but they wanted money to dig.

“Even after death he his suffering,” he said and placed

stones back over the face of his child, who remains sealed

in the darkness of eyes clenched in prayers that can’t

reach him or the countless other souls thrashing

in the memory of the living, pleading for rescue

so loudly, the earthquake never ends .