Words of WonderStone - Charles Simic

Go inside a stone
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill—
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls. 

by Charles Simic


I find this an intriguing poem by Serbian-American poet Charles Simic. Stones are so hard, physical and intractable. We think of them as unchanging, solid, constant and inanimate – and certainly not dynamic. Yet in this poem Simic plays with reimagining this absoluteness, finding a magical, light-bringing mystery in there instead. What might this be a metaphor for?

My son Sylvan is fascinated by stones because he knows they may contain treasure – fossils and crystals. He loves to crack them open to see what’s inside and is constantly on the look out for special ones. What surprise may there be inside? What possibility? I remember walking with bare-feet on the sun-warmed rocks on the northern beaches of the Holy Isle where I used to live, receiving a massage from them. There is something wonderful about stones to be appreciated over and over again!

But coming back to the question of what is the metaphor here, I’m reminded of moments when I feel intractably stuck, like my situation and accompanying feelings are solid as a weight, like a sack of stones. I can’t see the room for manoeuvre – it feels like ‘this is how it is and always will be’. But then with the help of mindfulness and compassion practice, I realise something. Although it may be subtle, it changes my seeing and feeling and I find ‘it is not dark inside after all’. Continuing to follow this lead I may discover messages, codes, clues, like the ‘strange writings and star charts on the inner walls’ of what had seemed like a rock of stubbornness, loss, anger, criticism, impossibility… The pearl of wisdom here is: Look inside these feelings, feel them, and find the hidden door in them.

What stone-like feelings might you look inside of?

Ps. If you like the beauty and metaphor in poetry and would like to find out how mindfulness can bring this alive in your own inner world come along to our Mindfulness and Mystical Poetry weekend in London in May.

Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash