657: Deep in the Rock

657: Deep in the Rock

657: Deep in the Rock


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

When my little brother was four or five, I’d come home from college to visit and we’d go explore the backyard. He loved being outside, still does. In fact, he was a park ranger after he graduated from college. But when he was little, our favorite thing to do was look for rocks. Anything that was interesting we’d pick up and share with each other. And once we found a rock that seemed to have these small engravings on it. Of course they weren’t engravings, just markings from erosion. But if you held it one way, you could see a face, and if you held it another way, you could see another face, and in another way another face, and then a small turtle on one side. I remember being truly in awe of what we saw in the rock we found in the garden in Stanwood, Washington.

We named it, because of course we did. We called it “The Rock of Ten Thousand Faces.” I have it with me now on my small altar at home. I love it because it reminds me of what the earth holds, all the secrets in stone, all the layers of the earth, what is below the basalt and granite. “The Rock of Ten Thousand Faces” felt like a gift. It also still connects me to my little brother who is now 32 and not so little. Even though I was taught that we should leave stones where they are, I pocketed that stone and every once and awhile I go to my altar and I look at the rock from each direction so that all the faces come alive.

Today’s poem celebrates the power of what is held in stones, in rock. It is an honoring not only of the earth, but of the fact that all of us are connected on this rock.

Deep in the Rock
by Laura Tohe

Deep in the rock, the tamarisk and monkey-egg trees have dug in to prevent 
erosion. Like the Diné, they refuse to leave. These newcomers prefer a symphony 
of crows playing against a solid backdrop. They spread themselves, thick as thieves,
drinking away the water for the sheep. Someone lights a match to them. Too late,
their roots have memorized the canyon’s endoderm. When the flood came, their 
arms groped for the sky as they sank into the muddy chocolate waters. A mass 
of tangled hair rose when the canyon emptied. Then a shivering silhouette of 
branches, like cracks in the sky.

Deep in the rock, the interplay of texture and color. Iron and manganese dribble
down the rock face. Will it matter to this land, carved by steady wind and rain,
after our bones have crumbled into dust?

Deep in the rock, crows make echoes, gáagii, gáagii. Their name is pure
onomatopoeia. Gáagii are everywhere, picking up the remains of what humans
leave, even the stuff that isn’t intended for them, like the boxer shorts stolen from 
the clothesline. My cousins laughed so hard when they fluttered away beneath the 
gáagii’s grasp.  Gáagii are everywhere and are taken for granted. If they were to
leave, they would be missed.

"Deep in the Rock" by Laura Tohe from TSÉYI'/DEEP IN THE ROCK © 2005 Laura Tohe. Used by permission of the University of Arizona Press.