The Only Eternal
Once in the river delta where the current slows
to lazy ripples like fabric of a flag unfurling
in a soft breeze, in the pale blue morning before
the heat of the day, I crouched with bare feet gritty
to gold anklets, feet peopled with my father’s
stubby toes, held my clothing away from encroaching
tide, fingers finding a muddy handful of pebbles
and fish bones. A boy poled past in a skiff
like shelf of a whale breaching, his brother
laughing, draped over the prow, gathering sequin
droplets with the glee of one suddenly wealthy.
In the silence of the mountain, three monks labored
over piles of white river-washed rocks, marking
each with the sacred circle in red ink as sunset spilled
over the monastery wall in vermilion ribbons.
Leaving empty cloisters, their bare feet took
dusty paths, their stones scattered at the source.
I uncupped my hand. In my palm: one white stone,
two fish-shaped, the fourth a fragment of blue glass,
edge softened, a horizon calling me with steady fire.
Nancy Knowles teaches English and Writing at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, OR. She has published poetry in Toyon; Eastern Oregon Anthology: A Sense of Place; Torches n’ Pitchforks; War, Literature, & the Arts; and Oregon East, Her poem “Sixth-Grade Homework” is available at War, Literature, & the Arts Journal