The Big Bad

By David Orr David Orr
At last we decoded the terminal message,
Only to find the pattern we had expected
Was false — a false trail of false bread crumbs
Designed to leave pitfalls undetected.

We found a new pattern. We found a hand
Moving pieces we had thought were only
Part of  the board, and shifting them to vantage points
We had ignored. We rewrote the battle plan

And reconfigured the satellite array
To show our progress from the very beginning.
The fault should be traceable — and hence correctable — 
And once we found it, we’d be winning.

We found a new pattern. We followed its track
To a forest beside an abandoned tunnel
Diving wide as a boxcar into the rock.
A stale breeze blew over rusting shovels

And all of our instruments confirmed a hit.
We set a perimeter. We sent in a scout.
From the interior, nothing looked back at us.
No tracks indicated a force had come out.

But we had a pattern. At dawn, we dispatched
A team of our best, our trackers and stone killers,
To see if  the signals were finally a match
And if so, to counterattack. And now we wait.

And now we wait. The tunnel gives nothing back.
The trees are revealing the first signs of gold
But the air is unmoving. The air is still.
It is quiet here, and getting cold.

Source: Poetry (July/August 2013).


This poem originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Poetry magazine

July/August 2013
 David  Orr


David Orr writes the column “On Poetry” for the New York Times Book Review. He is the author of Beautiful & Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry (HarperCollins, 2011).

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