Home > Poetry > Rules of the Game
Published: Wed Jul 1 2009
Wosene Worke Kosrof, The Inventor V (detail), 2022, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
Rules of the Game

I know how to play. Of course I do. I know
that few think of me as being playful

or as the player. The most suspicious manage
to see me as the toy. I don’t get close to them.

But at times they are the only ones who pay attention
to me. Cousins I have with one great claw,

and cousins who live in borrowed houses. I, too thin
to make a meal, too ugly to be a trophy,

make a living eating little crawling things
and fleeing from those who see me like one.

Play with me. Not talking to you, bug.
What a hassle when your food wants to play.

I said I wasn’t talking to you. Now I am going to eat you
even though I am not hungry. Might be a game—

gluttony, punishment, putting bugs in their place.
But it has no game board, and you can’t cheat at it.

Ricardo Pau-Llosa is the author of six books of poems, most recently Parable Hunter (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2008). His website is www.pau-llosa.com. (updated 12/2009)

Back to top