Why My Father Cannot Lay a Stone Wall by Gina Malone

Gina Malone is the 1st place winner of Streetlight’s 2021 Poetry Contest

Stone wall leading to white house
Fredricksburg: Marye’s Heights Stone Wall by Gary Todd. CC license.
Why My Father Cannot Lay a Stone Wall

Nearly eighty now he drags out the soft
middles of words when he plunders his past,
sweeping disparate bits into piles his voice
steps around. I always wanted to learn
how to build stone walls,
he says.
……………………………………………Eyes elsewhere he tells of a man
……………………………………………he knew when he was young,
……………………………………………an old man who said he would
……………………………………………teach him how to build a wall,
to lay stone level upon stones
in layers of orderly precision.
String & chisel & hammers.
The beauty in the lastingness
the sturdiness the essentiality.
……………………………………………Chosen, hauled and worked
……………………………………………stones overlapping, nestling,
……………………………………………settling their shapes and
……………………………………………weights one against another,
……………………………………………colossal footing stones, face and
……………………………………………throughstones, hearting, coping.
Aunt Ruby’s uncle he was,
my father says, a quiet man
who had laid rock all his life,
claiming garden walls and arched
bridges at Mr. Vanderbilt’s estate.
……………………………………………The restless boy who would become my father
……………………………………………had yearned, eyes and hands, to learn this art,
……………………………………………had expressed his eagerness to the old man
……………………………………………who nodded, saying yes, he would teach him.
But,
my father says—voice
weary with telling the story
that never ends
the way he wants it to—
he messed around
and died


Gina Malone
When not editing a monthly arts magazine in Asheville, N.C., Gina Malone writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. Awards and publications include the Sidney Lanier Poetry competition, the James Applewhite Poetry contest, the Elizabeth Simpson Smith short story contest, Kakalak and Poetry South. She counts among her greatest life experiences nineteen years owning a cozy, secondhand bookstore in the Blue Ridge Mountains where she was able to indulge her fervent love of reading.

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