Poems by Karen Neuberg

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Old Game

by Karen Neuberg

From Canary Spring 2017

Karen lives in the Atlantic Ocean/Long Island Sound Watershed in Brooklyn, New York, just a few blocks from the East River.

In yet-to-be hours, the remaining
children play the old game.

Milling around each other,
they jump and lumber, walk on all fours,

leap, roll, sniff, hug, flap arms,
and make assorted noises—

snorts, barks, buzzes, grunts, trumpets,
roars, low- and high-pitched cries—

until one by one, they clutch
themselves and fall.

When all are down, another child
sprinkles each with powder

said to contain ground
horn and tusk, beak and claw,

while reciting in a solemn voice
names memorized by heart:

Whale, bat, bee, tiger, falcon, bobcat,
wildcat, zebra, gray wolf, jaguar, dolphin, giraffe,

manatee, terrapin, ocelot, elephant, gorilla, polar bear,
rhinoceros, hippopotamus, orangutan.

And with each name said,
a child raises an arm.

And this is the old game the children play.
And its name is Sorrow.

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