Five Charms in Praise of Bewilderment

- 1943-


           At first when you leave town,

the dog and I maintain dignified silence.
           After no more than two hours
I’m talking to her, after three
           she’s telling me the story of her life.
I nod my head at every word,
           encouraging her
to take all the time she needs



           I have the vice

of courting poems.
           Pathetic, I know.
I also like to watch Oprah
           if no one is around to notice.
That’s right,
           I court poems, I watch Oprah,
I even let out wordless sighs late at night,
           and call them
my spring fields ploughed, my ready earth.



           Sitting quietly at dusk, I'll admit

my life goes like this:
           dark branches
scratching the still darker window.



           “How are you?”

I ask a woman at work.
           “I have no idea,”
she replies,
           sounding pleased with herself
at the heartfeltness
           of her own bewilderment.



           We don’t know,

can’t possibly know,
           never have known,
never will know.
           We just don’t know.

More by Jim Moore

Almost Sixty


    No, I don't know

the way to get there.
    Two empty suitcases sit in the corner,
if that's any kind of clue.


    This spring night,

everyone at the party
    younger than me
except for one man.
    We give each other the secret password.


    Tears? Of course, but also the marsh grass

near the Mississippi:
    your whispers and mine,
and the dog's long contented sighs.

Twenty Questions

Did I forget to look at the sky this morning
when I first woke up? Did I miss the willow tree?
The white gravel road that goes up from the cemetery,
but to where? And the abandoned house on the hill, did it get
even a moment? Did I notice the small clouds so slowly
moving away? And did I think of the right hand
of God? What if it is a slow cloud descending
on earth as rain? As snow? As shade? Don't you think
I should move on to the mop? How it just sits there, too often
unused? And the stolen rose on its stem?
Why would I write a poem without one?
Wouldn't it be wrong not to mention joy? Sadness,
its sleepy-eyed twin? If I'd caught the boat
to Mykonos that time when I was nineteen
would the moon have risen out of the sea
and shone on my life so clearly
I would have loved it
just as it was? Is the boat
still in the harbor, pointing
in the direction of the open sea? Am I
still nineteen? Going in or going out,
can I let the tide make of me
what it must? Did I already ask that?

Diptych: My Bracelet


Before going to bed I take off my bracelet. It is meant to protect me. A dancer gave it to me: for decades she has known sorrow and beauty. Beloveds have come and gone. Mountains and forest fires. Lives that might have lived through her, but didn’t. Lives that do still live through her. I go to sleep, protected by her love, even though now my wrist is naked. All of you who have lived with the mysterious succession of love and grief, of dogs and dances, of yoga and tears: all of you will know just what I mean.


There is sunlight and a staircase ending at the sky. There are electrical wires, a black cable. Then the sound of the train going away. There is my bracelet made of jasper that Peggy made for me. The river and the sweetness of going down to the river. There is all that darkness rushing under the arches of the old stone bridge. The waiting darkness. The patience. There is the going away: let’s get that straight once and for all. And the new waitress, her hand shaking, the tattoo pulsing at her neck, “And stray impassioned in the littering leaves.”