Kidney Stones/Gallstones

To a Stone, Caught in the Rube Goldberg Digestion Machine

By Jen Karetnick

Oh, stone, I found you A) sedimentary, striated B), on a beach long ago in Boston, digging C) with other freshman; learned D) how you can be added to E) over the years but also compressed, disguised F), worn thin G) by patient effluvia; until buried H) in the peat of a human organ I), secluded in the lowest lobe J), you taught me K) body geology L), that a pebble of calculi can activate M) non-activity N) when food is raised O) to teeth and tongue P), pulling strings Q) to saliva, which initiates R), a swallow impulse S), which spills T) oxalates down a water slide U) into stomach, where it is squeezed V) into the deep pool of coils that remain W) as passive as sand, signaling X) the cessation of the self-operating Y) dignity that is easier to crack Z) than I thought.



Jen Karetnick is the author of seven poetry collections, most recently American Sentencing(Winter Goose Publications, 2016), finalist for the 2017 Julie Suk Award, and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, 2016), finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of Virginia Book Prize. The winner of the 2017 Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Contest, the 2016 Romeo Lemay Poetry Prize and the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize, Karetnick’s work appears or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, The Evansville Review, Guernica, Prairie Schooner, Verse Daily and Waxwing. She works as the Creative Writing Director at Miami Arts Charter School and as a freelance dining critic, journalist and cookbook author.

“To a Stone, Caught in the Rube Goldberg Digestion Machine” appears in the collection American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publications, 2016), and is posted here with permission of the author.


As a novice in all things stone-related, I asked Jen Karetnick to explain the differences between the types of stones that are occasionally made by the human body. This poem was written after a surgery to remove kidney stones, which are made of the same substance (calculi) as salivary duct stones–as opposed to gallstones and bile duct stones (cholesterol and bile). Click the links above to learn about each type of stone.

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