Chapter 16
A Community of Tennessee Writers, Readers & Passersby

“The Cairns ”

Book Excerpt: The Cairns: Poems

The Cairns

They’re stacked beside the creek
on a hidden gravel road—patience
and craft, the artful searching,

seeing, chipping, shaping. Mostly
limestone, each rock—millions of years
forming, fossilized, story-filled—itself a cairn.

The hours spent in rugged contemplation,
water burble, wind in leaves, the forest’s sway—
a present for those who pass as the earth

crumbles in time what human hands have made.
I stack words to remember what words alone
can’t say. The tongue is an eye, a poet wrote,

not just a choking muscle, fumbling with age.
The earth a grave of lost words, stones
and children’s bones; a cairn, itself, crude and holey.

The gift is in the labor, mother taught—
scraped palms, broken nails, tired backs,
the ordered wonder of shape.