The fallen boulder, over there, distant, like a mountain,
and we sat over here, a worn-out crowd
of men and women, young and old,
all of us joined together, at our feet,
If the heart were drawn to a desire,
you could crawl toward it, but only as far as
the chains allowed.
We didn’t know.
Was it a calling in a frightful vision, in our weariness,
or a voice from some place – Where? We never asked.
“That fallen boulder over there – an elder long ago
carved a secret in it, for everyone near and far …”
It spoke over and over
and then the sound,
like a wave breaking away from itself,
And we said nothing.
And time passed, and we said nothing.
Even after, if only in our faces, there was, maybe sometimes,
a standing crowd of doubt and questions.
And further was the flood and ambush of fatigue and forgetfulness.
Even our eyes were silent.
And the fallen boulder was far away.
One night, when the moon was raining curses
and our feet were swollen and itching,
one of us, whose chains were a little heavier,
cursed his ears and cried, “We have to go.”
And, spent, we responded, “Damn our ears
and our eyes, we have to go.”
And we went, went crawling to where the boulder lay.
One of us, whose chains were looser, climbed up, and read:
“The one who turns me over
knows my secret.”
And we with an alien joy repeated this murky secret
like a prayer under our breath.
And the night was a wondrous confluence of rivers filled with moonlight.
Now, heave, one . . . two . . . three . . .
Sweating, swearing, at times sobbing.
Now, heave, one, two, three, again and again.
How hard, yet how heavy and sweet the victory.
And we with a more familiar joy, tired and happy,
were full of excitement.
One of us, whose chains were lighter,
commended our effort and climbed up.
Wiped the dirt and mud off the script, read to himself
(and we were anxious),
wetted his lips (we did the same),
and was silent.
Glanced toward us and remained silent.
Read again, dazed, as if his tongue had died,
something far off and invisible had stolen his gaze. We yelled,
“Read!” He was mute.
“Read for us!” He stared at us.
After some time, his chain resounding,
he climbed down. Thinking he might fall, we caught him,
sat him down.
He cursed his hands and ours.
“What did you read, tell us?”
He swallowed and said slowly,
“It was written
The one who turns me over
knows my secret.”
staring at the moonlight, the bright night.
Night was a sickly confluence of rivers.