for my fellow Tulsa Artist Fellows
Because a rose can’t wilt if it’s a rock.
Because a rock will shatter when tossed across
pavement if its glass, a skipping
competition was a must. Folks from all around
Oklahoma crowded the coast like a bottom
row of shark teeth. One judge noted
the rocks looked like an anus, another, a wad
of meat or shit one would have
to waddle like a goose or shake their fry-locked
ass to get out. Get, go on now, get.
The splash of the commode the same
as the splash when the stone is not thrown
at the right angle or is chucked
with too much force. Tour de France
ain’t got nothing on this, I heard a spectator
roar from his webbed lawn chair
where some vagrants have made the river side
of the levee their homes. The skippers
lined the banks where the Arkansas
& Vertigris hold hands while the audience
tried to avoid spells of vertigo
watching the confluence from a Muskogee
promontory. The preliminaries took place
in a pond locals & Mother Road motorists used
to swim. Rumor has it, it’s now inhabited
by snakes & gators that swam up
from the swamps & marsh of Southeast
Louisiana & a whale that will live
as long as the district chips in for chalk
blue paint every few years. Come October,
the championship will be underway.
Since the world record for skips is my born year
I signed up. One of the contestants
had one really muscular arm & heroin
veins that resembled the feet of a heron
or a great egret. Another contestant was a lawyer
running for state senate: pro-gerplunking,
pro-life & pro-gun. An uber-conservative
& Uber stock holder who specialized
in mediation & meditation. I never met
the dude who threw his arm out
on the first round. Or the guy who wore
hip waders. He walked out toward the lock
& almost drowned. Rescuers said it was like
pulling two men into the boat at the same time.
They gave him mouth to mouth
of the river, pressed on his chest until he spurted
water like a geyser of black gold.
My best friend, who talked me into this,
& is also the same age as my father, is a natural.
He wears neither deodorant or pants
& no one tells him a damn thing. He sings
to himself. They nicknamed him The Current.
He croons to the debris & doesn’t stretch
like me. He makes the whole shebang look easy.
I think the secret is in his calves
or the calfs he roped as a boy. I think
he has the most stunning legs of any participant.
His hair coils like wisps of monofilament
or a not-fully-formed maelstrom.
One afternoon, he skipped a rose rock so far
it made it to the other side. I know this
because when we walked the water
to the other side there it was, right beside
all the other rose rocks. Some had hearts
& initials scratched into their backs.
Some had petals weathered before
they were beached. When the moon tries
to spoon the tide they may get carried downstream.
Since the world record for longest skip
was hurled on my 30th birthday
the three stones I skimmed were all man-made.
A wiseman once said “We must be
like the rose rock: let the wind wash
over us, and the water iron our edges.”
The expensive & expansive paper weight I skipped,
as in pelted the surface with, may get carried down
the Mississippi to the banks of my hometown
not pronounced Nawlins. I’ll know it’s mine
if when I hold it up to the sun it kaleidoscopes
to show the facets of dazzling nonsense I left behind.
Clemonce Heard is a 2019-2020 WICW Fellow.