Family Stone

Family Stone | Zocalo Public Square • Arizona State University • Smithsonian

Quartz lines. Courtesy of matthew venn/flickr.

When they asked my daddy for id I showed them mine.
When we needed blades & generators to light the granite
Factory’s operations. I vouched my name for those rentals,
My murky illegitimacy. When the big saw sliced
Through stone, jets of water gushed from the cut and ran
All the words I’ve ever written through the sluices, heavy
Grey slurry, with twinkles every now and then. Like a slate
Lake catching the night sky. Those elastic evenings we’d cut
Templates of strangers’ kitchens until after mommy called
About dinner, I learned to measure the lines endurance draws
Out of these long hours, crawling to set the seams in place,
Creases in the stone patience of our prayers. Pant legs starched bone
White with dust we’d wear off the factory floor. That year
With you was just a taste of earth’s finest light in my lung;
I hear a glint of quartz turn in your chest when you cough
Out of sleep. I think your wings must be marbled by now with
Etchings of bloomed bronchial flowers. Occasionally a mistake
Rings my phone. A credit company asks for you: You mean my
I inflect. Deflect whatever debt they call to collect. I lie.
All of it is surely mine.

Tobi Kassim was born in Nigeria and currently lives in New Haven. His poems have appeared in The Volta, the Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, and the Brooklyn Review.
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