George Moore

Two Lives

Studying in Yugoslavia,
a place-name no one under twenty knows,
watched the unhurried merger of faces, names, rode the old Soviet trolleys
out past the inner city vinjac shops and sausage stands to Beograd’s fringes

and realized there were no echoes or only those
of the Partisans, their fight against the universal evil (of the day). Hope
always a great mask of readiness that perhaps can be too easily
renamed terror, difference, a commonality

of hate. In Mostar, I drank the nights away with farmers whose pigs
squealed at dawn beneath my open window, and talked
with students of the West, a balance, Tito’s dance
between love and hate.

But years later my brother was sent to unearth the mass graves
of men shot in the knees, buried seeing, men
whose names were among the ones I’d toasted the harvest with above the Adriatic,
and the difference was not years but a secret incantation

of the possible, the human, the way things simply change
back to the old ruts of habit, hatred, the pigs biting each other’s hind legs,
the dawn either misty or dirty in the yard below
and a hope cracked open on the past.

Map of the High Byang Sang, Tibet

On my dorm wall, an old aerial map,
the forbidden borders north of Nepal,
marked Uncharted Territory in great
wide swaths, the young man’s

mind, a corner of the world
unmeasured by other than some blind
geographer, years before the borders
opened to the West.

But the seed was there, deep
in sense of the forbidden, unseen,
in the absence of others who’d say
impossible, no one’s been,

the silence of a hundred years.
Until finally I made my way, a Drukpa
disguised as someone seeking demons,
lesser gods, and meditation,

snuck in beneath the great expanse
of yellowed paper unmarked with names,
to learn the prayers on the underside
of stones, piled in cairns, all waiting.

George Moore © 2010

 

Crossing into Afghanistan

In the old way
across the Khyber Pass
a track narrow as a blade
between stark knuckles
forced to stop for a stone
the size of a house
and half a day to push it off
like thunder into miles of canyon
where nothing lived they said
or was hidden, the pass itself
bouldered with desert cairns
from centuries of nomadic use
the bus a tasseled hearse
weaving its deathwish woof
in a warp of dust and time
a patchwork painted husk
with cracked windows
and a driver singing radio bauls
high-pitched fever-songs of love
like romantic color-touched posters
of this and the next world.
And now this difference
made real, its secrets
exposed in blasts of news
spread like Sunday comics
across living-room rugs
and kitchen tables
centuries culminating in knots
of fear let loose like that boulder
down the canyons of the globe
coming to rest on the scar of road
that crosses a primal border.

George Moore © 2010