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