Poetry plays at a game of chance,
a roll of the dice, a turn it takes
one morning with the coffee
before you dig your heels into the beach,
or of an afternoon, exhausted by the spell
of books, and at the threshold
of evening tea. But the poem never plays;
when it falls, it bleeds. I think
that everything falls apart,
but you think and I am amazed
at the clarity of a loaf of bread.
On the other hand, a finger
bent by a door at a college in a day
too young to ask are you fine,
that is poetry. Those are the rules
of love, too. Forget the falling, the emptiness.
The old man with his gnarled hand
is a unicorn, and you, his myth,
rude poetry, the proper meaning
of just another day.
after Olga Orozco
There are places that do not exist
but for the half-lost memory of them.
Situations in cafes and on streets,
needle cold, hot porridge, and pigs in doorways,
and drivers singing squealing ditties,
tassels swaying in a dusty breeze,
and peaks so close they crowd the streets,
and buses so crowded they double seats
or carry you like luggage on the top,
and trains so slow the children jump off
in fields where their mothers do not look up,
and fences of mud like great ant hills,
and rumors of tigers as white as the peaks,
and walls that have fallen more than once
around cities that fall into themselves,
and faces that look almost like one you know
who lives ten thousand miles away,
and tin plates topped with meatballs and rice
and the guts of a creature who they pray
will never come back to haunt you
on the day you leave, the bed unmade,
the children almost quiet in the streets,
the last train waiting, whistling steam,
cinders covering the seats.
The Ruins of San Agustin
The horse knows nothing
but it takes the lead.
A boy who said he would guide me
disappears. I enter the jungle alone,
a figure on a map, a scratching
in a stone wall, the clown
at the festival of skulls.
Somehow the horse believe
in the gods, and the gods guide it
past the river to the tiny trail
down an impossibly steep ravine.
After a tour of life’s extremes,
I meet the middle, and heads
are rising on each side to greet me.
They are the remains of things
unseen, the faces in dreams,
the massive memories of a small,
Big eyed lovers, bulbous
redeemers of an ancient order,
the gods of the jungle
who are all teeth.
And before the horse breaks lose
of my hand, before it picks its trails
by smell, by myth, by hints
of atavism, and we wander back
into the town’s false streets,
a part of me believes.
believe in anything
but an afterlife;
immortal as the gods
in their books,
they ride out across
the roads of the dead:
Death Valley, deserts
of Black Rock, and
south Oregon wastes,
and chance gas
will last into the
they have not yet seen.
In Reno, they sleep
just off the street,
in cotton bags
with old green seams,
and nothing disturbs
their dreams but
a light sound of coins.
With age, as everything
begins to rust, they
avoid water, wish
as much as work,
wish beyond the desert
and back, to the land
before they left,
to the faces at doors,
to the cure for sadness
that they never noticed,
to the gods who
have abandoned them.
George Moore’s collections include Saint Agnes Outside the Walls (FutureCycle 2016) and Children’s Drawings of the Universe (Salmon Poetry 2015). His poetry has appeared in The Atlantic, Colorado Review, Arc, Orbis, Poetry and Valparaiso. After a career at the University of Colorado, he now lives with his wife, a Canadian poet, on the south shore of Nova Scotia.