J. M. NEWTON
The final glaciation of the last ice age ended about eleven thousand years ago. Global temperatures crept higher and ice sheets retreated northward, leaving behind all manner of moraine, new hills, and assorted debris that had come south some hundred thousand years prior, riding on the glaciers’ knees and huddling in their footprints. Part of that detritus are what the locals call zwerfstenen—wandering boulders, huge rocks that, over time, strayed across long distances.
In autumn, I set out with a friend to visit them. Our purpose garnered us odd looks from family and friends, especially from the proprietor of our bed and breakfast, who found it amusing that we had travelled no less than five hours merely to see some rocks. More particularly, we sought after hunebedden, Neolithic tombs constructed from the wandering boulders.
The search began at nightfall, the end of a hard day’s travel. Twilight filtered through brown, broad-leaved trees and scampered around the backsides of brick houses, carried on the wind. Leaves grasped at their branches, though many could hold no longer and fell, scratching over the paving-stones. Think carefully, my friend told me. If one falls on your head, you have to make a wish.
Stones lined the sidewalks and footpaths throughout the town, saying, follow us. This is the way. We did, to the end of the road, between open pasture and dim woods, the moon bright above us. A pin marked the hunebed’s location on the map, but even having paced the length of the road several times, we could not locate the entrance to the forest path.
Before long, we came upon a lone horse standing behind a fence. He became inquisitive as we approached and allowed my friend to feed him grass from her hand. Gradually, we followed the horse along the fence as he indicated clumps of desirable grass, but after a while, he became agitated and moved quickly back and forth, as if to say, the time is right, come along. And so we came, along the outside, down the edge of the pasture, muddying our shoes in the wet grass. Yet, breathless, we pursued the horse until, at last, he halted. To the forest-side was a wooden arch, carved in red and white, a path wending away behind it.
The path ended quickly in a clearing, so simple it seemed absurd that we could have ever missed it. Ahead loomed a formation of silhouettes, like trolls crouching in the night. I climbed atop one of them and contemplated. The stone was smooth, but covered in the scars of a long life, pockmarks and lichens. A leaf, falling on the breeze, brushed my hat.
You could trace the life cycle of this boulder all the way back to its birthplace, the rift valley deep in the center of the Atlantic. Unimaginable eons later, it had come here. It still wanders, but at a pace I cannot keep up with. I wish I could.
Joyce Ker is a freshman at Johns Hopkins University whose poetry has appeared in TAB Journal of Poetry & Poetics, Tule Review, Louisville Review, and Boxcar Poetry Review. She is a California Arts Scholar and alumna of the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio. Ker has been nominated for the Best New Poets anthology and the Pushcart Prize.