Sandra Kolankiewicz


How terrible to take stones and walk off
with them, call myself the determining
factor of their destiny, making them
an object instead of a moment to
release without coveting, which is the
reason for the rocks that sit on my desk,
prop open my doors, line the windowsills,
brought back from some faraway place that is
now at war, which I visited in my
youth, full of so much hope I wonder if
all who visited also carried
stones to their homes, perhaps even several,
and inside each one a living soul that
once was sleeping but who now is awake
and living like a refugee in a
foreign landscape, imprisoned energy
that needs to be returned for peace to come
again, thrive on those sunny, wave-lapped shores.

Where to Put Them

So I sit up and what comes out of me
but yesterday, giving birth to the present,
arriving with no announcement and now
needing to be cared for, at least given a
place to rest, five individual shapes
and sizes requiring surroundings to match,
unable to speak and so reliant
on me to place them in circumstances which
are favorable. Shall I spread them through-
out the house, each to a room, or cluster them
in a pile on a table, for some don’t
like one another yet find separation
intolerable while others are so
past caring I could put them anywhere. They
are igneous, out of their element,
unlike any others in the place, ashamed
for being different, scared I’ll send them
out to the garden, make them stand in the sun
all day long with no hat, break their backs to
hold up the sky while they dream of the kitchen,
the rare breeze under a real oak by the
back door, sand no part of who we are here,
living in the dirt between two rivers,
yet to be accepted by rocks around us.

For Taking

For taking is what I have always done;
the piles in the yard prove it, the rocks that
ring and line the artificial pond brought
here by me from somewhere else, as if I
could unpack the earth like a box, repeat
in all my enlightenment the mistake
that something lasts forever, that nothing
can be depleted, the earliest graves
just bodies laid into crannies in the
cliffs, covered with debris, rotting and
drying for a thousand years, awakened
only by earthquakes spilling them out on
the ground, jaws and femurs scattered side by
side with the war bones that still wash up on
the white beaches, and the bones of slaves dead
in unknown places, scattered among stones.

In the Wilderness of the Dead

The neighbor builds a wall from concrete poured
into a mold to look like pink stone in
the shape of a scallop shell, a semblance
of granite the same color as his wife’s
fingernails, the flat bed having dropped them
off in my driveway instead of his, men
having removed and placed the curved pieces
like a salmon stack the color of a
labia that can’t be avoided by
car, massed in alternating directions
on top of one another, exactly
where they were to be left according to
his explicit directions except at
the wrong house, my husband angry when I
complain, for he claims that by the weekend
the man next door will have added value
and depth to his property and thus to
ours, the fad for fake stone made by scooping
out limestone or silicate to crush it
to powder, then hauling the dust perhaps
hundreds of miles to be mixed as one part
cement to two parts sand to four parts of
aggregate with water and air, slowly
cured into a replica strong enough
to suck the life from batteries but more
easily controlled than quarried mass, less in need of
supervision and skill to be useful.
Why can’t everything be made of stone or
even brick, soft natural consequence
of water meeting rock, clay merely a
step in the life process, easily formed
into whatever you want, hardening
in the sun like the sacred way to the
river settlers discovered when they first
arrived, mud walls on either side chest high,
baked by light, remnants of the people who
built the mounds and watched over the pawpaw,
the hazelnut and walnut and deer in
this valley, who could not understand why
we made places on what they believed graves,
people who no longer remembered who
once dragged baskets of dirt to pile conus
or the capitoleum nor how they
arranged their earth shapes to exactly meet
the setting rays of the solstice winter,
who did not know the ones who created
this site was them, survivors of great great
grandparents killed by the disease brought by
the earliest men with beards to arrive
with their common cold, before history
on the western banks of the Ohio
began, before the pioneers tore down
the walls of the sacra via and used
the ancient stone like remnants to create
rough homes in the wilderness of the dead.

Sandra Kolankiewicz is the author of the poetry collections Turning Inside Out and Lost in Transition, and also the novel When I Fell, with illustrations by Kathy Skerritt.