Three Poems / by Andres Rojas

              after Osip Mandelstam

Innocence won’t age
well, a dodo’s beak
for this old man’s face,

my life a waiting room
for saber-tooth lawyers,
Neanderthal jaws on lye:

Erebus is the time, the place
for what will happen again.
And you, Tristia,

you belie the word,
not flesh, not vodka, nor a lyre
like a bird-cage door:

Yes, I lie in the earth
moving my lips.

A tundra in thaw
is a song and a mistake.

The art of departure is neither.







     In’am Sabahan

Almost still a boy. Stalky.
As a reed. A rod.
Your words on my ear,
the desert in your voice.

Even here water flows
in murmurs, like your uncle’s
caravan. Like years,
certain aches. Like the life

of the starved stray
on your black dog’s fangs,
snarls dark as winter-crop
thunder clouds. Like questions:

the sieve of a body
dying, eyes on mine
anything but quiet, blood
on my bloody arms.

You chided, Such a girl
to let her hands
into the mouths of curs.


     Salaam Alay-kum

The only haven
to which I belong:
what you have revealed.

For it, any wilderness,
the recitations of armor
on the day of battle.

My heart is a box
full of swords: pray
you do not open it.

Or pry it so.
Whom a blade may slay
it may also deliver.

     Walay-kum Salaam

You were horizon
to my wandering,

grackle to my earth-
shadow, your call

a foot trail sudden out of brush,
a spring amid deaf sand.

Now you are my plectrum,
I your plucked string.

Thus I will sing mercy
even if not yours: fever

I know, and noon heat.
And the break of fever,

cool sleep that sates.
The bite of thorns.

The body’s self-love
bent on healing. Not why

but that otherwise
is silence. Of this I sing:

You the miles and I the feet.
I the sore and you the callus.

I the sea. You the shell.
You the flesh and I the pearl.







Appears as in an ad.
Makes you want

to buy another life.
Makes you want a baby.

Grins like a vamp
on a shoe. Reads

the fine print,
your email. Uses

a smart phone,
credit cards,

anybody. Will
make its feelings

known at the viewing.
Closes its eyes

without remorse. Wears

But doesn’t have to.
Is not a slave to logic.

Is not a slave to weather.
Is not a slave.






Andres Rojas has an M.F.A. from the University of Florida and his poems have most recently appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow Street, Colorado Review, Massachusetts Review, New England Review, and Notre Dame Review. He is the poetry editor for Compose and he also blogs about poetry at