A diaspora of stones make their way back, posted
by penitents keen to relieve long years of suffering.
Late at night under desk light they put pen to paper,
insert shims of confession to wedge bits of Pennsylvania
scree into envelopes, a wary eye on talismans cocooned
in twists of tissue or sealed up tight inside zip lock bags,
ancient Alleghany seabed pocketed one hot August
afternoon in the Peach Orchard, palmed on impulse along
Cemetery Ridge, another bearing the mica glint that drew
the eye of a desultory adolescent moping in the long
shadow of Little Round Top twenty-three summers gone
now, before the untimely death of a sister or a budding career
in HR derailed on the heels of divorce, DUI and depression.
How else to explain the plane crash, forfeiture of assets,
the shadow on the x-ray, the second one hundred year flood?
In after hour twilight, tour buses long gone, gaudy chains
out on Route 15 humming, all with waits of an hour or more,
a National Park Service Ranger, a man about my age and mien,
doffs his flat brimmed lemon squeezer to retreat behind a desk,
leaf through a sheaf of petitions for mercy addressed in desperation.
Silence pressing in from Culps Hill and Devils Den, the Wheatfield
and Seminary Ridge, he presses smooth a pane of stationary, eyes
closed, fingers brushing words of intention, box of stones at his feet,
heaped, indistinguishable as an unbroken line of advancing infantry.