I was collecting rocks on the Cardiff coast,
a testimony to centuries of silt
left on the shore, of sediment pressed into stone:
sandstone, shale, tufa, travertine, jasper, flint.
There was the stone that knew the sadness of the sea,
that saved its secrets. It was pock-marked with holes
and lay half-buried in sand eager to save
the ocean’s spray, like tears, in its miniature pools.
There was the stone that always rolled in place.
It had rolled round and smooth with each wave,
desperately trying to control the tide.
There was the stone that showed rings upon rings
placed by the sea over years,
that kept time for the Pacific.
There were stones that breathed
sulfur, that sparked when they touched.
Unremarkable in luster or shine, they
were the lovers of the ocean, firestones
whose sparks were not dampened by salty waves
(but they only made sense in pairs).
And there was this one, more white,
more brilliant, more polished than any stone.
But it was once upon a shell;
it needed centuries to become a stone.
It was a counterfeit firestone:
it did not breathe sulfur, it could not make sparks.
I traced my steps back along the Cardiff coast
and the stones I returned to the sands.
The ocean’s secrets would be well-kept by the stones:
its tears would be stored in pools,
its tides kept in check,
its years measured in rings.
But love itself I could not leave on the beach.
I kept the firestones.