My stone self and the forgotten calves – a poem by Lindsay Rockwell

My stone self and the forgotten calves

I sit still as stone counting
how many times my breath stops. 
Stand on the edge of a cliff, 

miles below the sky and miles above 
the river, see the hinterlands 
where forgotten calves born to slaughter 

live lives unlived, still as stones
—cornered into a lifetime of breath 
that is no breath. My pulse quickens 

as I eye a herd of clouds, their buffalo
forms hurtling toward my sorry throne 
of cliff. The homeless wind brushes 

my hair. I wonder if my heart and face 
are canvas for sorrow, my mind 
and body paint. The clouds begin 

hurling their rain and wind. I shut 
my two telescoping shutters, feel fear 
rise through the forgotten calves’ hooves

then course their viscera, making 
their hides roil and ripple, shudder 
from snout to curl of tired tale. 

Their matchstick legs shift, and shift 
and shift again, and I am 
a helpless stone self, a canyon, 

far from sky and far from swallowed 
river. I feel the brine of my tears 
brim, form a stream roiling, though more  

sad and slow than that, feeble down 
my cheeks, my feet not shifting 
my heart not stopping, my soul 

aching as the herd of now black 
and blue buffalo clouds rumble 
their arrival above their tortured kin. 

And my stone self strips 
her stone skin and I jump 
or is it fly or is it fall.

Lindsay Rockwell won first prize in the October Project Poetry Contest in April 2020 and has been published in Iron Horse Literary Review, Perceptions Magazine, TheCenter for New American’s Poetry Anthology and The Courtship of Winds. She is currently the poet-in-residence for the Episcopal Church of Connecticut as well as host for their Poetry and Social Justice Dialogue series. As a medical oncologist she has been published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and coauthored In Defiance of Death: Exposing The Real Costs of End-of-Life Care (Praeger, 2008). 

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