Whenever I feel the need
to be beaten,
I call my neighbor for a tournament.
We’ll play two games,
if we need to break the tie,
though usually, we don’t.
He always wins.
I learn some strategy by losing.
He gets pleasure by crushing,
that “young whipper-snapper from next door”.
He’s ninety five,
sharp as a trench-war bayonet,
but it’s incumbent on me
to walk to his house because
aging towards immobility,
while I am merely seventy,
So, when I hang up the phone,
(I know, that’s anachronistic! Phones don’t get “hung-up” anymore.)
having procured an invitation
to a chess Armageddon,
I have a choice:
I can step out my front door,
stroll up my driveway to the top,
turn left on the newly paved road
and walk up to Mr. Alexander’s home.
( He calls me “Ken”, but he’s old enough
to warrant a “Mister” from me.)
I can go out my back door,
to wander the mile or so through
our shared wood lot.
Except in inclement snow or rain,
I take the forest.
It intrigues me.
So I risk the pain.
There is no path.
No mulched trail leads me
to my humiliation,
though I have trod that Green Mile
many times before.
from one pine to another,
stumble over a protruding root,
skirt that granite-walled-gouge
to my left,
sometimes sliding down the slope,
sometimes curving away,
step-stone skip across the little brook,
babbling in Spring,
but by early Fall
dry enough to hop through.
I am arbitrary in my meanderings.
Sometimes, it is good just to wander.
It reminds me of the first half
of my peripatetic, vagabond life.
bouncing around existence,
tacking through time.
the History I have my retirement to study, now,
when I’m not being
schooled at the chess board,
or chipping out a poem.
I’m learning from my reading that,
we may choose
to impose an iron grid
upon the centuries,
to trace God’s Ironic Hand in it all,
or some dialectic necessity
or some evolutionary insistence
on some sort of grand
to grant our journey into tomorrow,
I can blame some
unpredictable tripping over
some recently dislodged rock,
rolled down a slope in secret
(after a torrent has washed the soil away)
where it catches my toe,
so a million bleed at the Marne,
or we might voyage to Mars,
or we are,
“Damn! I didn’t see that coming!”
Queens Knight takes Kings Rook –