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Rules of the Game

by Ricardo Pau-Llosa

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’s sixth book of poems is Parable Hunter (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2008). (12/2009)

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