I turns ghosts into stone & stone into ghosts the old man told me in stuttering tongue that spoke hardscrabble carolina & cotton & klan / I takes these gnarly hands & digs names into rocks of folks who used to be / now gone ghost & waitings to be tied back down to the dirt where theys belong / not lingering or wondering or wandering away from those’uns they miss / then them rocks become refuge to them ghosts / a place to rest finally & be there for them living ones to come & tell secrets /

see them stains right there on that boy’s rock / them’s lines from tears collected by that there ghost / maybe from a mama or daddy or somebody loved long & good /

over there somewhere be one where a lady bad hurt & grieving did her own cutting into my rock left her own words so that certain ghost would know things for always /

if you looks right over by that toppled cedar you’s gonna find a little bitty rock for a little bitty ghost didn’t have much time here in this world / and you’s gonna see all kinds of toys & such all round it / sometin’ new bout ever few weeks / I know it sad for them folks loved that baby / but I likes seeing ain’t no forgetting /

you know what I’s often wonders / he asked / whether them little ghosts gets a chance to come back to try again / or whether jesus does just keep ‘em for hisself

I don’t mind none / he told me / what peoples do with my rocks cause if’n it helps somebody &
lets them & that ghost have some peace then guess my job be done

what I knows for sure / he said / is those of us living ain’t always very smart about life & wastes it or makes a mess of it / probably same for lots of these ghosts / but maybe when you get turned into stone you gets time to cast back / ponder it all & makes some amends / who knows / or maybe you being a ghost makes you a lesson for other peoples makes them think a little more about making more of lives

maybe when you a ghost you evens gets to laugh & cry a little bit / which may be the best of what living in this world might be & what will be left over yonder

then he walked away slow & hurting a little / but let his hand slide along the top of one of his rocks in a way that spoke love

Gary Carter