George Moore

Why We Work With Our Hands

for Fred

Because they are sympathetic with the wood
and know the purity of its frozen rivers, the red
that does not bleed, the white sapwood that slows
even as the seasons slow, their mazy grains,
their longevity, the way trees never move
and move continuously. 

Because we come with these light creatures
who live at the outposts of our bodies, these
ministers to the world’s savageries,
that touch the wood as if it were alive, knowing
how it grew in our absence, within the silent copse,
under the pleasure of a dark canopy.

The board balances on the dead planks of its horse
and the wood smells sweet with a residue of its love,
aroused, as it should be, for we know wood
as our bodies know lovers, by the grain and sinew
of their masks. The chair made by a man who died
goes to auction and the hands forget. 

They suffer the haphazard swings and bruises of unuse.
But the wood remembers, in its slowing labyrinth
the last monsoon, the felling, the rings that harden
into histories.  Into fingerprints that foretell
the hand’s return.  So when the wood is soaked
and bent to hoop, rain gathers in its barrels

or sails carry it out to mount a last resistance
on the sea.  Or men take it up and nail together
the frames of houses, feeling at once its
lightness and surrender, knowing that dust
in time must settle like moth silk on its eyes
and rains again will rattoon its limbs with crucifixions.


The Real Thing


No matter how old you get
the real thing waits.

It might be a matter of days
or years.  It might be the next

century.  The real thing
inhabits the spaces you create

with your eyes closed
with your insides out.

And for that reason
it remains invisible to you

beyond the reach of eyes
and ears, beyond the mind’s

greediness for inclusion, eluding
the fullness of absolute being.

The real thing does not confuse
so much as it shapeshifts

when confusion intrudes.
You have it but you have it not.

It escapes you but it is you.
The years roll by unnoticed

until one day, suddenly, coming
upon yourself, unafraid, you find

you’ve been waiting all along
in the middle of the real thing.


Subways in Europe


I ride out into nowhere on the Paris blue line
because it is Paris after all, and riding is being
anywhere else but home on a bus out West.
There are people who think riding the subways
of Europe is only a way to get around, to work
or the theater, to a bookstore, or some place
like a destination, with a purpose, a goal. But
I ride for the pleasure of the displacement,
distance grows in me like a nervous worm. 
No one rides the subways here just for the ride. 
They believe in destiny. I ride through factory towns
on the outskirts of cities, through neighborhoods
where the incomprehensible graffiti screams, words
whipped up out of a maelstrom of urban languages,
ride through subsistence gardens planted along tracks
that feed those who cannot ride the subways
for pleasure.  It is a time machine, this subway,
journeying back into the world’s fine, forgotten
ancestry.  It’s a spider that feeds on my desire
for the oldest forms of communion.


The Poet's Place


Some say the poet’s place is in the city
washing himself in the human lees
the dirt men make that does not blow away

Some say the poet’s place is in the snowy fields
watching as the blackbirds cross a winter day
making out that this is their eternity

Some say the poet’s place is on a mountain
like the sage, living alone out in some cave
and knowing God as a lover.

I say the poet’s place is here under a stone bridge
on the first page, salamander sleeping in the mud
that daylight startles and night rescues.

Others will say the poet’s place is at the head
of the class, like an actor on a stage, rehearsing
forgotten beauties he wishes he had seen.

But the poet’s place is here in a language
sleeping under the word, turning
in the curve of another’s ear.

      return to poetry

George Moore teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder. His fourth collection of poetry, Children's Drawings of the Universe, will be published by Salmon Press in 2012. Other work has appeared in The Atlantic, Poetry, Northwest Review, Colorado Review, and elsewhere. He was nominated last year for two Pushcart Prizes, and was a finalist for The Rhysling Poetry Prize and the Wolfson Poetry Prize.