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"Holding The Stone"

Storm Pattern, poetry by Greg Pape

You must hold it close to your ear, and
when it speaks to you, you must respond. - Richard Hugo

I found it by the Clark Fork
on a high bank above the river
where someone dumped remains
of an old road, broken slabs
of concrete crowding the river stones.

I admit my first thought was throw it,
skip it on the surface going gold
in sunset, dimple the water like
whitefish rising, give it back
to the river that gave it shape and color.
But once in my hand its calm
And luck took hold.

On the bank the dog found
something dead to roll in. She
perked her ears as if to listen,
wagged her tail, shook herself proud
in primal perfume. Her good-luck
demeanor almost won me over,
but still I had to bathe her in the river.

That was years ago, first night
In Missoula, first home, a motel
by the river. Now I have a son.
And I still have the stone. Its color
changes. It goes from brown to gray
to green like the year. I hold it close
to my ear and listen.

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Greg Pape is the author of ten books of poetry, including Four Swans (2013, Lynx House Press), American Flamingo, winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition Award, Sunflower Facing the Sun, winner of the Edwin Ford Piper Prize, Storm Pattern, Black Branches, and Border Crossings. He has received two National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, a Pushcart Prize, the Richard Hugo memorial award for poetry, the Vachel Lindsey poetry award, and others. His poems have appeared widely in magazines, anthologies, and text books, including The Atlantic Monthly, The Viking Western Reader, and Writing Poems. Greg Pape was Montana's second Poet Laureate. He has led poetry writing workshops at colleges and universities around the country, and since 1987 has been a member of the Creative Writing faculty.

"Holding The Stone" was published in his 1992 collection Storm Pattern.

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