by Sara Parrell

On My Son Leaving Home

All these years they have gathered in our house,
the first smooth stones resembling valentines
plucked from piles along Lake Michigan shoreline.

Later we searched north where Superior offered up
her infants, cold, glistening, and later still, Agate Beach
south of Bolinas strung thin hearts riddled with holes,

a sign, we believed, of my sister dying three thousand miles
cross country—and the two you stowed in pants pockets
from the mountains of Nicaragua, grey as sky,

as her eyes. Only a few weeks ago you tumbled red jasper
onto the kitchen countertop: I brought you rocks, Mom!
one perfectly heart-shaped, veined with quartz

where cracks considered coming home. Our house
brims with heartrock as I marked our mother-son time
stone by stone, heaped on the concrete hearth, lining dusty

windowsills, coffee table knick-knacks, paperweights.
My first-born crossing away to the West Coast might be named
rock-too-heavy-to-carry—what I feel as you pull out the drive,

a passenger in your father’s red Intrepid; there’s Amtrak to catch
to the ocean and all those books and boulders. Watching you
I remember as I rub a smooth pebble picked from the lily bed—

all small triangles of stone we call heart were once one
monolith of being, seamless as a mother’s love.
This fragment I hold is warm as birth-water, a reminder

how you and I, each in our own awkwardness and wonder,
break like rock, like wave, like heart, into the whole.

-originally appeared in The Wisconsin Academy Review, Summer 2002.