Stone in the Lapidary
When you’re a stone in this museum, people stop and stare at you. They either say nothing and move along or they say, often under their breath, that I am beautiful. I guess that’s meant as a compliment, but I feel naked, like they are comparing me to other stones and rocks. Do I make the grade? I’m originally from southern New Zealand. The Maori love me—but not like passersby in the museum. I’m put to use. They carve me and I am even more beautiful. I lose parts of me to gain a better self.
Pounamou is my name. You can see it written on the white card where I’m placed. In New Zealand I knew the sun well. Now fluorescent lights rain down on me like fine silt. Bored children barely give me a glance. They wait for rock candy. I don’t understand rock candy. How sad for anyone who becomes candy.
A few months ago a woman said I’d be perfect if someone smashed me so she could use my pieces in a necklace. As a stone I am silent. That doesn’t mean I don’t scream. When she said that I screamed so loud that I almost made the museum walls collapse. She heard nothing. It’s easy to scream and not be heard. It happens all the time.
I can tell you’re tired of me. You’re thinking that a few stones away you’ll see jade. The museum prides itself on the jade. I’m not jealous, okay, maybe a little, but it’s just jade. It may as well be sandstone. The best time of day is when they turn the lights out and everyone goes home. Human eyes drop off me so I sleep well. Until tomorrow. Light on. Door open. I’m seen.
Lenny drives almost forty miles to a lapidary. No one he knows likes rocks. He goes from stone to stone, a monk before stained glass. He dreams of beautiful stones. Jade carvings rest securely on a stand inside his head. In the morning he wakes up refreshed. With jade you have nothing to hide. You admire it. The sun sees the Earth as a precious stone. Someday the sun will take the stone completely in. For now, the sun keeps distant. The jade shines under artificial light.
Lenny wants to shrink in order to fit inside the jade, own a house there. He mourns his bloaty self stuffed behind a wheel or a computer screen, a stone-less world, not even drab pebbles that long ago lost their souls to erosion.
Kenneth Pobo is the author of twenty-one chapbooks and nine full-length collections. Recent books include Bend of Quiet (Blue Light Press), Loplop in a Red City (Circling Rivers), and Uneven Steven (Assure Press). Opening is forthcoming from Rectos Y Versos Editions. Human rights issues, especially as they relate to the LGBTQIA+ community, are also a constant presence in his work. For the past thirty-plus years he taught at Widener University and retired in 2020.