Saturday, November 23, 2019

Poetry: Sermon in Your Stones (For John Burroughs)


Sermon in Your Stones
(For John Burroughs)

I began to sense that I was saved
when I gazed at my reflection like a
river otter studies its own teeth;
or how a nine month old falls asleep, head first
into her own lap.

Without judgement, I began to sense it.
Looking down I thought that I heard
sermons in your stones. An intelligent, loving,
laughter-inducing possibility that I was never lost
to begin with.

Read More Poems From The Adirondack Almanack HERE.

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George Cassidy Payne is an independent writer, domestic violence counselor, and adjunct instructor in the humanities at Finger Lakes Community College.

George's blogs, essays, letters, poems, and photographs have been published in a wide variety of national and international outlets such as USA Today, The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio, The Buffalo News, Albany Times-Union, Syracuse Post Standard, Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, The Toronto Star, The Minority Reporter, Chronogram Journal, Ovi Magazine, CounterPunch, Moria Poetry Journal, Ampersand Literary Review, Adirondack Daily Enterprise, and more.

George's first book of poetry, A Time Before Teachers, is available at


3 Responses

  1. Tom Kligerman says:

    Are not these woods more free from peril than the envious court?
    Here feel we not the penalty of Adam,
    The seasons’ difference; as the icy fang
    And churlish chiding of the winter’s wind,
    Which when it bites and blows upon my body,
    Even till I shrink with cold, I smile and say
    ‘This is no flattery; these are counsellors
    That feelingly persuade me what I am.’
    Sweet are the uses of adversity,
    Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
    Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;
    And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
    Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
    Sermons in stones, and good in everything.

    William Shakespeare (“As You Like It”, written 1599)

  2. George Payne says:

    Thank you for sharing this poem by Shakespeare. Good to know where Burroughs got that line from.

    • Tom Kligerman says:

      Absolutely! Over 35 years ago, when I first saw Shakespeares play As You Like It, I was amazed at the Bard’s incredible prescience, 350 years before legalized “wilderness”, of the value of wild spaces to the human mind. Now, as a Winter 46er, with 12 ski ascents of Mt Marcy, I hear those words “the churlish chiding of the winter’s wind…When it bites and blows upon my body..” and realize even more the sweet miracle of humankind and what we all experience in common, across the millenia.