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SKIPPING A STONE ON WATER
# — for W.J.M.

Whether it's the hand that finds the stone
or a stone that chooses the hand
is hard to say. The result's the same:
a thing that snugly fits the finger's crook,
smooth, nearly silky, to touch,
with heft enough to cleave the air
but light enough to spank off water —
good for ten to twenty skips
or more before it seems to skim, then float,
then sink, leaving a circle widening.

What's hard, my father taught me,
is not so much the proper match
of stone and hand, nor the way
the arm must swing exactly parallel to shore,
what's hard is what's unteachable:
reckoning that point at which you must release,
knowing something's bound to take
a proper course because you followed through
all the way, clear to the end —
it's learning the hard way how to let go.



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