The Man and His Missing Rock Collection
My mother brought me a dozen stones
from an Alaskan beach — pink and gray ovals
that brightened when I wet them.
They were paralyzed for years in a glass bowl
on the knick-knack shelf, until my daughter
found them and began mixing them
with the stones my father had brought
from Ireland, and the stones I had
from Arkansas and Maine, and all the stones —
people had given me from Africa
and Spain. These were not spectacular stones
just little eggs of color that could fit
inside a pocket, the tiniest pouch
of a travel bag. Once they were all together,
I couldn't tell whether they came from Alaska
or my own back yard. So in a fit of order,
I flung them as far as I could
into the woods behind our house.
I regretted this even before their small
stampede had stalled among autumn leaves.
I would miss the clack of them
in my daughter's hands, how she'd pretend
they were jewels or meteorites
lined up on the living room floor.
Now, the largeness of Alaska is lost
in suburban woods — among the tree forts
and the graves of pets, the light of my neighbor's
porch at night so bright it kills the stars.
The Man Who Worried
He collected obscure ways of dying —
chimney fires and Ebola,
silo explosions, a man crushed
on a fishing boat deck
when the net gave way above him
and the mackerel waterfalled down.
His collection led to a certain way
of carrying himself in even
the most mundane scenarios.
Every man had mayhem on his lips.
Every woman kept a derringer
and a meth habit at the bottom
of her purse. Even the supermarket
was a place he might buy
things to undercook.
The end of his world was
everywhere — ubiquitous as air,
the moon that could crush him,
this very moment, as it fell
through the bedroom drapes.
Charles Rafferty directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College. His most recent book is A Less Fabulous Infinity. He recently received a grant from the NEA and the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.