Stonecutting

by Robert Focht

 

            When Moses phoned me, I was hard at work on a headstone. I'm most comfortable with chisel and mallet in my mitts, hammering granite and inhaling the fine gray rock dust. The old fart floored me, saying he wanted a facsimile set of tablets. I thought he’d misplaced his marbles. This was a challenge only someone whose specialty was parting the sea could have come up with.

            You know the story: he got pissed and smashed the originals when he returned from the wilderness and found the tribes lap dancing with a pyrite heifer and applying for Philistinian citizenship. I sensed Moe was a bit embarrassed by the monumental temper tantrum that triggered his trashing of the quintessential collectible, so I tried to comfort the geezer by gushing about how I loved the grand dramatic gestures of the Exodus.

            Those slabs were one of a kind, hand-hewn by you know who, and I'd be hard-pressed to pull off an approximation pleasing to the patriarch. I quickly hoisted my lunch pail and hightailed it for the quarry.

The Book of Maps

 

            The scent of roasting coffee is drifting up the palisade. All these countries coming

and going! What was the name of that tiny duchy disappeared during the dance craze seven decades ago?

            The entire expanse of Brazil is crammed into our cul-de-sac. Missionaries samba, taking short sips of espresso from exquisitely crafted demitasse cups during the brief intermezzo when the musicians brandish their machetes.

            The latest volcano is just breaking the surface of the sea near Sao Paolo. The java-colored lava percolates, spreads, and cools. Meadows and mountains form. Pumice erodes. Flowers take root. Dynasties flourish and fall. It is the year that Christ the Redeemer will be reincarnated as Admiral Cabral and reign as King of Carnaval.

            Like all great cartographers, you are fluent in Portuguese, have hydrofoiled the headwaters of the Amazon, and fear no piranha. You take yours black.

            “Pass the sugar,” I said softly as I made another adjustment to the atlas, eyes wild

with caffeine after my eleventh café con leche. According to the legend, one inch equals divinity.

A graduate of New Jersey City University, Robert Focht has studied with Maureen O'Brien. Patricia Carlin, D. Nurkse, Rachel Wetzsteon, Terese Svoboda, and Brenda Shaughnessy. Robert has been published in The Hoboken Terminal, Red M, Steampipe, and several other small magazines.

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November 2018

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