The Old Stone Savage

ancient bison rubbing stone - Arm River Valley in Saskatchewan, Canada

The old stone savage moves slowly. You and I would not notice his nomadic ways.

A rock of considerable size, the old stone was only a speck of primal dust when earth’s violent labor pains delivered its raw materials.

Angels clung to each other in fear and awe of its clamorous birth.

Having arisen to the surface, the young stone left his siblings behind and traveled on an ice flow until he came to the valley floor where he now rests. He is surrounded by wooded hills, rocks born of another but congenial family. Cows often scratch their back on his shoulders.

If you are fortunate enough to find him awake, you can hear him sing. Wordless songs mostly. Deeply resonant melodies that harmonize with the valley dwellers. He is not a composer. His songs are stolen scraps of tunes he’s gathered over the centuries. Snippets of melodies, but such a variety. Waltzes. Gregorian chants. Orchestral symphonies from the oaks. Jazz ballet from wildflowers. Fickle phrases he’s picked out from the springtime stream. Echoes from the canyon.

Two hawks spiral great circles in thermal updrafts. For a moment, he feels the breeze under wide spread wings.A sweet-scented magnolia, white flowers cupping the moonlight, catches a thousand quartz eyes embedded in the old stone savage, igniting a fire which burns in the caverns of his ancient weathered heart.

This poem was inspired by Natalie Goldberg and Robert Frost. Natalie approaches writing as Zen meditation and spiritual practice.

Natalie approaches writing as Zen meditation and spiritual practice. From a writing prompt in her book Writing Down the Bones, she suggests:“Take a poetry book. Open to any page, grab a line, write it down, and continue from there. If you begin with a great line, it helps because you start right off from a lofty place.”

What I ‘grabbed’ was the phrase ‘an old stone savage’ from Robert Frost’s Mending Wall. In Frost’s poem it is spring and he is walking his fence line, struck by his neighbor’s appearance as together they replace stones in their mutual wall.“I see him there bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top in each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.”

When I read that line, my mind’s eye saw a great burly old boulder, rather than a man. He had history. I developed a great affection for this ancient being while discovering his back story.

The photo, which I discovered later, has history as well. The boulder is a natural monument to the great herds of bison that once ranged over the entire prairie and was used as a "rubbing stone". Location: Arm River Valley in Saskatchewan, Canada

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