The Meadow Is Filled with Stones
White stones, flat or round.
Some of them boulders, some small enough
to fit in my fist—the instrument
of a perfect murder. Blunt, faceless.
If I kill and let the stone fall
in this field, who’d ever find it?
There’s a farmhouse at the edge
of a Romanian village, lonely and thick
with shadows as dusk sets in.
People inside are afraid to turn on the lights.
Once in a while, stones fall
from the sky, dent the roof, chip bits
from the eaves. Stones fall, never bigger
than someone’s fist, never hurled
from great distance to burrow
through the roof and kill.
The rumor goes they sold
their souls to the devil. She sleeps
with Lucifer; he rapes his daughters.
Their cows, pigs, and sheep recoil
from their food, for they are fed
the flesh and blood of their young.
They keep idols inside their house.
The blind head of a monster
is perched high in the center of a room.
They kneel in front of that head
three times a day. They don’t go
to church for fear of bursting
into flames, of turning to stone.
The old man and his wife die
one after another—quiet deaths, nothing
spectacular about them.
The village comes to see them buried.
The woman goes first. Her grown-up
children, who long ago left for the city,
hold the casket with nary a look
for the villagers thronging around.
They speak among themselves.
Their gestures are calm, they show no fear.
They bury their mother in the field
close to the farmhouse, where stones
come out of the ground like clean old bones.
Their father cries. The priest is not there.
The village talks, but not for too long.
The old man might have had
a drinking problem but kept it to himself.
When he dies, the curious few
are already out there, in the field,
huddling in the dry grass.
It is fall, it is cold, it is windy.
They watch the sons and daughters
of that little-known man bury him
like a treasure in the same grave
with his wife. Later on, some would swear
the ugly head of a beast was laid
on the old man’s chest. No one
musters the courage to open the grave,
though many vow to do so.
The mound in the field bears no names,
no flowers. Stones cover it in the shape
of a hunter, the shape of his prey.
A year later, new grass swaddles
the grave and the pattern has changed:
the hunter is being stalked, the prey
has scattered across the pasture,
baring its teeth to new seasons.
Somebody buys the farm with its stones
and its graves, piled on top of one
another for centuries. This is a good
place for game, the word spreads.
This is a good place that death
comes easily to. After dark,
if you still yourself in this field,
you can hear the soft hooves
of deer coming to feed
amid stones and moonlight.
First published in Cordite Poetry Review, Issue 95: EARTH, February 1, 2020