Found this pure cobble, took it
for limestone, white roundness inviting
generous design, the ancestral frog
resolving from ground as sight cleared,
her thighs, her forelimbs powerful
in calm embrace of stone. Traced
their contours, the ornate spread of her form
around the stone in slow strokes
flowing the lacquer to fill each irregularity
balanced on fingertips, let it dry,
traced them again as slowly,
dried it, souped it with confidence
for you beside the campers' pebbles
sizzling happily with their initials. Waited
puzzled while a faint froth rose
of chemical workings, left it to stew
through their next buoyant batch and the next
till the acid lost all bite. Peeled the tatters
of resist from the subtle bas-relief
of my design, dug the remnants from pits
as best I could, traced the contours again
with slow lacquer and again, dried it,
souped it in pure acid with less confidence
than determination, through generations
of salutations to Mom and Dad. Measured
progress soberly, the lines twice as high
yet halfway to visible, two elements of thigh
effaced where decayed resist had floated free,
and nothing to do but quit or persist. Scraped
the contours again, dug the remnants
from bigger pits between newly-etched
crystal faces as the terms of struggle
clarified. Flowed the slow lacquer lines
again, taking care to coat the shoulders
against undercutting, dried, scraped
the sloppy channels clean, flowed
and scraped again, souped it in reeking fumes
to yield too slowly to measure
but somewhat again in sum, enough
for now. Thus this obdurate stone,
enshrining my mistake about its nature,
the dense crystals of metamorphosis
reluctant to yield to Pygmalion, revealing
their own alignments under stress,
the broad flaw that cuts across my design
but not to its heart. Yet in certain lights
oblique as at the times of richest vision
the form I had recognized stands clearly
forth, content in marble embrace.


for Karen,
24 Dec 98


Return to: Top | Poems | Home