Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, PLAYING JACKS IN BHAKTAPUR, by KAREN SWENSON

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PLAYING JACKS IN BHAKTAPUR, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: On a cruciform cloth squared in black and white
Last Line: She names.
Subject(s): Games; Travel; Recreation; Pastimes; Amusements; Journeys; Trips

On a cruciform cloth squared in black and white
two old men are playing, with ivory and ebony pieces,
worn as the dust-caulked stones they squat on, a game.
I do not understand
game, rules, or anything else here.

On the other side of the temple square
a Garuda folds gilded wings at the top of a pillar
in this town whose syllables are so strange
I keep relocating them in the guide book
as though their sounds could say the place I am.

Turning from the play of old men I watch
a girl squat before a rough circle of pebbles
with open palm toss
one to the air,
gather in its fall
three from the dust
and capture
the fourth's plummet
in her cupped hand.
By the catch
of childhood
she names.

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