By Isaac Rontsh Translated by A.Z. Foreman Death Valley in the California Desert: I stumbled suddenly upon a stone, A jagged little thing that seemed to plead With me "O pick me up and cool your brow On me, but take me with you out of here." A shard of quartz, of granite and iron-ore, Colored with rust, dried blood and speckled white, Alone, dissevered from its native rubble; Descendant of volcanoes, fiery explosions; Of scalding lava, dust-plumes and detritus; Of earthquakes, ice-ages, epochal flood; A living greeting of millennia: stone memorial mark of ancestors long gone. What secrets could the little stone reveal? What storm or strife engraved the ancient notches? How many lives pressed in together here? How many eyes are winking up at me? So sharp-edged, spear-edged, weighty this small stone. So heavy and deep it sinks into my pocket, As if to say "Even rubble has its value. You'll find a use for me eventually." At home it is no conversation-piece. There is no place for it as decoration. Into my drawer it goes, useless, forgotten. But one day of a sudden, I remember That stone, seeing all my kitchen knives are dull. The wieldy arm lies weak against the table. Proud steel turns pleadingly to humble stone. So old stone whets young steel back to a knife, And quick from stone the heart leaps back to life. The blade again gleams with a sharpened smile. The arm-muscles move spirited and strong. The desert-aged shard out of Death Valley Shows worthy mettle in the hot house kitchen. This tiny graveyard of millennia Whets the dull cutting edge of modern life.