above: Marguerite Lawler, “Mossy”, 24″x24″, oil, 2017
Submitted by Gary Lawless
Introduction by Betsy Sholl
Gary Lawless has been a presence and force in Maine poetry for many years. He grew up here and runs with his wife Gulf of Maine Books. But he is also a world traveler, or I should say an “earth traveler,” having residencies in national parks, studying with Gary Snyder in the Pacific Northwest, and, he writes, heading off for a residency in Venice this fall. His work also includes making room for others–teaching poetry workshops for immigrants, translating, bringing to our community the voices of those we haven’t heard before. My sense is that Gary is very grounded in place, but it is an expansive place, because he honors the fact that every living soul also has a place. It’s as if he makes no distinction between “here” and “there.” After all, our stones have already been fire and vegetation and sand, have been under the earth and high above.
The stone is “full of slower, longer thoughts than mind can have” Ursula LeGuin
Birds skim the surface
Just above, just below
Layers of light
Stone below the
Surface, many surfaces
What is revealed and
What is hidden
Inside the stone
Up in the woods,
In the circle among the beech trees,
Last winter one of the lumber horses split a stone
Horizontally, with a clip of his big steel shoe.
It had seemed to be a plain gray stone,
But when it was opened a black wall appeared,
Rusty at the edges, flecked with pale checks
Like unknown constellations, and over all
Floated wisps of blue-grey, trailing feathers of clouds.
I brush away the fallen leaves
And stare into the distance inside the stone.
If one could become a bird –
If one could fly into that night-
If one could enter the light of those stars –
And then the woods become very still,
The beech leaves blur at the edge of my vision,
I find I am bending lower and lower.
I don’t know if they bleed, the stones.
Or if they scream, if they howl under
The wheel & the mace, or if the knife’s
Blade wounds them, deep in their flesh,
Slicing through them.
I know that the loam that sometimes
Runs from them, no matter how red, is
And I’ll say nothing of their
Tenderness, from stone to stone, from
Water to air.
But what I know is that our blood
Comes from the stone. And our flesh
Comes from nowhere else, come from
Stone we are stone, we are dust and
That our blood is blood of stone,
And our heat is of the sun, and our wail
The howl of the stone, through which
Our soul passes full-bodied, that we are
The soul of the stone – but tell me, the
Stone, who is the stone – where does
She come from?
Translated from the Occitan
By Nicole Peyrafitte and Pierre Joris
Driving home from Belfast, into the crescent moon
(for Dudey Zopp)
I hear the granite singing,
And it is alive.
I want to tell you
That granite is a migratory species
(think plate tectonics, continental
Drift, glacial erratic)
But you can read the flow lines
From when granite was
Liquid, and moving, quickly –
I want to tell you
That lichen is
A language of granite,
That granite speaks
And water and light –
We might never know
What stories it holds
Deep within the rock.