I remember the sway of her forearm gentle
as she stepped small by my side up the hill
to the dam at the end of the steep boulevard.
The man-made lake. Summers then were loose,
sunny, long as the warm sidewalk uphill
from her yellow house. We didn’t know the dam
would burst when the fingers of the old fault
worked loose the bound water onto
the evacuated neighborhood. We were
thirteen. We didn’t know she would be thrown
from a horse in Denver, restrained in the brilliant room
while they set the bone, scrubbed the wounds.
We knew the words to Unchained Melody
and all the names of the Beach Boys. We were the small
flesh of the world. We didn’t know the imminence
of her father’s death. I didn’t know
what it meant when my forearm brushed against hers.
The stone has to look like this, I told her.
She showed a girl’s disinterest, wandered, mute
down the shore, touching the hair she had spent an hour
setting while I demonstrated how
to fit the stone in the knuckle, bend close
to the water, swing the arm parallel
the earth. I threw my heart out the end of my fingers.
“Skipping Stones” is reprinted from Sanskrit.
Gerry McFarland graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from Rainier Writer’s Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University. He is a co-editor at Floating Bridge Press. His work has appeared in Zyzzyva, Crab Creek Review, Pontoon 8, Sanskrit, Crucible, Berkeley Poetry Review, Bayou and many others. He was awarded the 2005 Sam Ragan Prize and was a finalist in the 2003 WinningWriters.comWar Poetry Contest.
What a wonderful image in that concluding line!
The rhythm of the words reminds me of the little waves that would regularly lap at the shore of a lake. I love the alternating things “we knew” and things “we didn’t know”, and especially the imagery of the last line. Beautiful words.