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Two Poems by Ricardo Pau-Llosa

Muhammad XII's family in the Alhambra moments after the fall of Granada, by Manuel Gómez-Moreno González, c. 1880

Muhammad XII’s family in the Alhambra moments after the fall of Granada, by Manuel Gómez-Moreno González, c. 1880. The Alhambra palace and fortress complex is located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain.

Epistemology at Aleida’s Swimming Pool

A world is no less itself when upside down
reflected in the pool, as if dangled from its heels
like a prisoner already confessing his innocence
or his guilt by his journey through condition.
A slight breeze ripples the water into rungs
the eye climbs across the harped semblance,
toward the point where image spills from the real
onto the trembling surface and there resounds.
Hearing and sight teach each other, mold
from wave and shot what we call World.
Yet mystery. Precision. The distance we know
by reverb and frequency the eye translates into size.
So the ear, too, has a vanishing point it borrows,
as shadow is courted into depth by aural eyes.
All else we touch, smell, and taste in nearness,
as if the body staked its right as nest
and center where horizons siren their numbers to rest.

Al Andalus

In courtyards of sun and night I find
my moment's calendar. Centuries, in a bud still,
bloom in the timeless mind as light pools
in the oyster palm of fountain to settle into motion.
Language—contained infinite—turns the rotation
of the moon into emblem, its one face spools
myriad yet same. A syntax of shadows fills
the atrium, the square Roman heart which lined
Bath and Córdoba, Byzantium and Havana and speaks
form into the form of mind. There rest breaks
the bread of words into tone, doubt, and palate.
The moon on earth—these walls cratered with flowers.
A blank that shines by night is an eloquent slate.
Each prayer a column; each column a blessèd tower.
Among lions I walk, and beneath the petaled combs
I am hovered from rivulet and harem to amber domes.
The wanderer's journey is the history of home.

Ricardo Pau-Llosa is a Miami-based poet, art critic, and story writer. His first book of poems, Sorting Metaphors (Anhinga Press, 1983), won the first national Anhinga Prize. His third book of verse, Cuba (Carnegie Mellon), was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1993. His latest collections are Man (2014) and The Turning (2018), both from Carnegie Mellon.


  1. Beautiful poems. The line “—these wall cratered with flowers.” was one of my favorites, but it was hard to choose, especially with such a last line as “The wanderer’s journey is the history of home.”

  2. Gerry Rayburn says:

    Agreed Marta. These poems are real gems. Hadn’t heard of Pau- Llosa before. Very happy to discover this.

  3. Fascinating! I too have been captivated and also written about Al-Andalus, Granada, and the gardens at Cordoba.

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