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The Chess Man
A couple perfect hexagons of limestone
Tilt against each other like elephants at a circus.
The final stone lies flat, calm,
Upon its surface engraved the familiar pattern of
Ivory and ebony.
His deft hands flick the pieces into place.
Each one he cradles as a long-time friend.
The stolen ring on his middle finger glints silver.
He leans back, drawing on his cigarette
With poetic motion, almond eyes
Narrowed as he surveys the battlefield.
The plaid shirt hangs over ragged black jeans,
Falls unbuttoned over the tattooed chest.
Ink, long-faded, a teenager’s dragon dreams.
By the now the scarlet and green have melted
Into the grain of his collarbone.
A floppy, navy-blue ski cap tilts askew.
His eyes dart over the board, and the scene dances
Behind those flat irises. Once upon a time he imagined
Knights heeling forward their snowy stallions,
The glowering queen in her amethyst robe. Each move a
Dance with death.
Now each piece represents a cold, clean, hard
Series of decisions that fall
Click-click-click into place like dominoes.
Black and white, each moment crisp and sharp-edged.
Every tiny carved figure melds into his spider web logic.
Each game a fresh start despite dusty mistakes.
He smirks, exhaling smoke in a thin stream.
His queen glides forward, held lightly between
Thumb and forefinger. He shakes his head apologetically, winks.
His teeth flash whiter than the doomed king.