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MARTYRDOM IN THE EAST
By George Moore

 

Martyrdom in the East

The more hateful was the cruelty, which spared not so tender an age, the greater
in truth was the power of faith which found evidence even in that age.

                                                                                  St. Ambrose

A girl of thirteen, hanging her head
as someone raises the sword. Or staked out
before the tinder is lit, before the flesh

that would not be consumed
is burned. But Agnes, did you really believe?
When does the inner spirit distinguish

the god from the godly, the moment
from the eternity that seems so real?
Do you have a cure for love?

The young Roman boys loved your looks,
the smooth curve of your shoulder,
the curls perhaps, across an innocent face.

But something in you, some political idea,
something you heard on the street
or beneath, in the catacombs,

at meetings that were not allowed,
made you decide on a bright, fleshless star
so early, as if a transient moment of growth.

But forever. That is a word that you
might have known better than most,
or not so well, if you find me in the darkness.

Not so well as the boys who would love
till the thin hours of the half-lit dawn,
and revel in their wine and songs.

Not so well as the god who speaks,
under the cover of clouds and fishes,
of forever, before your time was done.

 

 

Lament of the Shoes

Walking is sadness
but free, a secondhand
store full of cowboy boots,
a seriousness of wear
having eaten them alive
but enough to be
picked up for cheap.

Oh, sadness of the shoes,
those pointed boots,
angled so as to fit
the snug lip of the stirrup,
to parallax into the distant dust,
and dance in squares.

Thin toed leather,
loved forever, and let
sit in the darkness of store,
then closet, and walking out
into the sun again,
into mud stomping truth.

No one survives
a mistake of shoes.
In the restaurant at night,
weak candles portray
the smile of a woman
and the shine of her shoes.

Two ships sinking
in the slip of forgotten time,
refugees of the body,
terminal sighs,
roots of the tree
touching the sweet earth.

 

 

The Ends of Poetry

                                “Poetry ends like a rope.”

                                                —Jack Spicer, “The Book of Music

Beginnings are easier,
a kind of soup. Spaceships landing
by mistake, or an undercover cop
in love with the bad in the good,

and a little graffiti on the prison walls,
a light touch in the latrine. But no
missing persons, no parental snipes;
no ceremony is for keeps.

Words play at belief, tall tales
set before the wilderness of mirrors,
but the little signs prove incomplete,
an inadequate way to say goodbye.

The television is one long scream
for help, the act of typing
a dance in disguise,
and reading has never been easier.

Not like the old days, the lingering
drunks, children created in somebody’s
bad kitchen, the shadows of trees
soon to be cut down.

And, of course, the fist fights.
But then poetry never quite ends
like a rope, more a knot, a hanging,
or anchor. Iron rusting in the heart of the sea.

 

 

Naxos

 

We missed the departure to arrive
where no return boats could take us that night.
After the day on Delos, talking with the gods,

we failed to get off, to disembark,
absorbed in our conversation. Next island, Naxos,
our first tryst, a love founded on ancient civilizations.

Our friends on Paros wondering where we were,
as we kept the café open all night,
with the myth of our meeting secured.

The proprietress who met us on the dock,
the shipboard captain’s sister, shuttled us up
the narrow steps to the rooftop rooms.

One was empty forever, the other full.
Like Ariadne, abandoned on that island,
one labyrinth escaped simply leads to another.

 

 

George Moore recent collections include Saint Agnes Outside the Walls (FutureCycle 2016) and Children's Drawings of the Universe (Salmon Poetry 2015). Nominated for six Pushcart Prizes, and a finalist for both the National Poetry Series and the Brittingham Poetry Award, his work has appeared in Arc, Stand, Antigonish Review, Orbis, Valparaiso, Colorado Review and the Atlantic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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