The Manchester Review
Ralph Black
Three poems
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The morning isn’t a riddle
after all, but a problem,
an unfigured sum, digits climbing,

decimals moving up the row,
zeros speaking their open-throated
songs of praise.

The afternoon isn’t, after all,
a shepherd napping on a hill,
but a Rabbi wide awake on a bench

on a boulevard of sycamores—
two or three worlds away
from where I sit, on another bench,

watching a row of blackbirds
clatter along a wire like abacus beads,
tallying with Gnostic zeal.

Even the evening
isn’t evening after all, but
something less, dusk

subtracted from dark, the moon’s
remainder pared down, carried over
to the next column,

where a few stars
languish like tarnished coins,
and snails glister over wet leaves,

where the day’s ledger lies open
on a table, all but unreadable
in this thin parchment of light.