​SAND: A Poem by Fred Lape

This poem by Arbore­tum founder, Fred Lape, play­ful­ly med­i­tates on both the per­ma­nence and imper­ma­nence of sand. Lape inti­mates that sand, over the mil­len­nia, retains noth­ing long,” yet in the very long run – on its own time, so to speak – sand becomes rock, some­thing sol­id, some­thing that will endure for ages, at least mea­sured in human time. But per­haps Lape inti­mates that , over the mil­len­nia, rock becomes sand again .… and so peo­ple, gov­ern­ments, even gods endure for only a time in an end­less cycle.

– Nolan Marciniec

The mal­leable sand obeys any mas­ter.
Even the small­est wave slides it.
The heavy break­ers roll brown froth,
grind­ing it swift­ly in their jaws.
The wind sifts it over the dunes.
The feet of bathers scuff and depress it.
In it is writ­ten the pas­sage of birds,
tri­an­gles of hun­dreds of lit­tle feet.
It retains noth­ing long, a back­ward child.

If per­sons had this mal­leabil­i­ty
gov­ern­ments would move more eas­i­ly
and die with­out the yeast of growth.

But bury it deeply lay­er by lay­er,
let it lie qui­et a few thou­sand years,
it coheres, gath­ers strength,
becomes blue stone for hous­es,
walls to sep­a­rate cows or peo­ple.

Out of this sand I press with my toe
some future man may carve a god.


Summer 2019

Volume 37 , Number 2

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