My father knew stone. He’d sit cross-legged
at the hearth, felt cloth on knee, bent over
with hammerstone, wooden punch, and bone
tine, knapping at flint or chert, knapping it to knife
point, sickle blade, arrowhead. I’d watch the stone
give way beneath his deft blows: fine flakes
splintering from face or rim. The curved edge
grew sharp, the tapered head, hard. When I asked
about my mother, he never raised his head
from that good work. She died birthing you,
was all he’d ever said. When he traded at market,
or taught stone crafting to the village boys, his eyes
were sweet as beach plums. With me,
they closed to granite and fell away quickly.
My father knew stone. He found her sleeping
at the edge of her tribe’s camp. He pressed
his hand to her mouth. He dragged her out
into deaf dunes. Her teeth found his wrist, cut
a bloody black mess that dripped in her face.
Later the bite would silver to a sickle-blade
scar I would trace with my mind as he sat
cross-legged at the hearth, knapping
at flint, a sickle-blade knife. Beneath
his hammerstone blows, his boulder stone, his bull
bone punch, that peeled ribbons of skin
from her cheek, and her mute
cobble rock in his flint grip, she gave way to him.
He pressed her breasts to the dirt, ground
her hard against the sand. My father knew stone.
© Dimitra Harvey
‘Father’ first appeared in Meanjin, Volume 71, Number 3, Spring, 2012; and can also be found in Long Glances: A snapshot of new Australian poetry from the 2013 Jean Cecily Drake-Brockman Poetry Prize, Manning Clark House: Canberra, 2013.