Like A Stone

            Chris Cornell, July 20, 1964 – May 18, 2017

bellies swollen on a gallon 
of milk a day, the gut pain

of poverty and intolerance, 
my brother and I learned to stare

out at the landscape and see life 
stained mahogany like a pine deck 

a beauty made of knots and accent
because of your notes – 

the sharpness of a needle point 
entering skin, a palimpsest 

of angst and softness
what was different 

about the suffering, prescribed
drugs flipping a switch in enough cells 

to make a permanent eclipse 
on your eyelids – 

somedays I get so tired
waiting for the dark to fade – 

I have to believe the mountain 
top provides – I have to believe 

it is not the light we seek 
in climbing, but to taste the air 

in our lungs at different altitudes – 
I am trying to save you, Chris, 

figure out what sirens sang you 
to let go with the darling buds of May – no,

I am trying to save my sons 
before they fathom life is not the hand 

that picks up the stone
but the beautiful stone that is grasped 

and skipped over a shimmering lake
into exhilaration before it drops,

acceptant like an anchor, 
and finds its bottom.


Christopher Ankney’s first book, Hearsay, won the 2014 Jean Feldman Prize at WWPH. Post-publication, it placed as a finalist for the Ohioana Award for Poetry. His poems have been published in Boston Review, Gulf Coast, Prairie Schooner, Verse Daily, and more. His work can be read in current or forthcoming editions of Cimarron Review, Electric Literature’s The Commuter, Jet Fuel Review, Panorama: The Journal of Travel, Place, and Nature, and Poetry South. He is a tenured professor at College of Southern Maryland, and he lives in Annapolis, Maryland, with his wife and sons.