It’s cowboys and Indians, toy lead soldiers painted in perfect verisimilitude.
It’s a riot of black and white reduced to a paltry pawn asked to keep advancing.
How many pieces have been taken, how bare the cupboard is, and still the hunger each day, the mouth wanting.
Is it too early or too late to tell you.
Have you noticed how large and expansive the board is, with the Towers and Knights and Bishops and Queens removed, how far the eye can see, so much nothing there is to flood vision.
I watch you hobble square to square. Your pain distinguishes you, as the leaf in October, desiccated and thin, rises to a beauty unknown before.
All the complex strategies, the joys of conquest, the education in defeat: games done.
And now, the slow accretion of will to continue, like a coastal shelf built up day by day over the long years, serves.
Dear pawn, I watch your slow, steady way, the lack of theatrics. Reduced in stature, shorn of physical gifts, you still here.
Just you and the King left on the board, and He almost an afterthought in your dogged persistence.
I can and I will but I don’t want to without.
Robert Rothman lives in Northern California, near extensive trails and open space, with the Pacific Ocean over the hill. His work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, The Alembic, Existere, the Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Westview, Willow Review and over 25 other literary journals. www.robertrothmanpoet.com
PLAYING CHESS BEFORE THE WHITE-OUT by Robert Rothman