The Skimming Stone

in memory of Billy Knight,

who died of a heart attack, age 38


The factory on the river, during lunch

We’d skim stones to a current brown and slow.

The shore was pebbles that our boots would scrunch

As we searched back and forth for stones to throw.

Most of the stones were poor New England slate;

A few had -- smooth and round -- the proper weight,

And we’d spin off long runs and argue whether

To count concluding skips that merged together.


Once when the whistle called us from the shore,

You pocketed a stone. Was it for luck?

Or did you feel a specially close rapport

That day with life, with youth? Or were you struck

Merely that the stone’s smooth warmth implied

A longer rather than a shorter ride?


from Sapphics Against Anger and Other Poems, 1986