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Coming tomorrow:


  There's a snowstorm outside that emphasizes
the squares we live in--the house, the rooms.
We have square protection: corners split the wind.
We have warmth. So the long Sunday laziness beckons us
to set down the chess board
and people it with tan and black wood pieces.
Jake sets them up and waits while I pour a coffee.

We've come a long way since the first time we tried to play
and he couldn't remember how the pieces moved:
which ones could jump over, which ones were blocked,
in which directions they went, how to eat the other pieces.
And now he knows, no need to ask.
When we start he plays all of his pawns first.

Of course I use no strategy against him.
But never could, against anyone.
Chess was never my game. I would land
in every barbed trap laid by a thinking opponent.
I tried thinking ahead three moves.
I tried thinking in the present, one move at a time.
Nothing worked. Crushed each time.

Jake uses even less strategy than me.
I cheat
so that he can win.
But even that doesn't work.
So we manage a stalemate of a pawn and a king each.
A couple of jesters and Lears
that wander around the empty rooms
of the castle, sifting across black and white tiles,
marble floors. Growing hopelessly grey,
everyone else dead.

Now he tells me that he was cut the other day
from the school chess team. He never made it.
Got beat each time. But didn't feel bad--
tried his best. I watch helplessly
as the pawn of my heart
walks full force, full knowledge,
into the waiting barbed wire.

from The Wind is a Tall Man Striding
Copyright © Jim Slominski