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July 15, 2024

The Pawn

By Terry Petersen

A young man props open the door
to his screened-in porch
as a robin dives, wild, wings flapping
into the wire mesh walls.
The man gestures toward the exit
and mutters about how other creatures,
two-legged or flying,
refuse to be rescued.

He leaves to learn the tricks of chess
from an elderly neighbor.
The older man offers him a seat
at his kitchen table
where a set of yellowed-white
and chipped black game pieces
wait on a well-worn board.

The master's game is sharp.
As he plays he speaks
of his sons and daughters
and their plans for him
to move to a nursing home,
the place the old man
calls incontinence hell.
He describes shirts with elbows bared,
gifts from his deceased wife,
removed without his permission.
She lives in those shreds.
The young man tries to follow both
his teacher's stories
and his advice about the game
until the old man shakes his head.
Because you are learning I will let you
try that move again.

But the student sees
only black-and-white wood
on a checkered board.

The old man shows no sign of triumph.
He resets the board.
The young man nods, silent,
wondering if the robin
found passage -- or not.

Article © Terry Petersen. All rights reserved.
Published on 2016-07-18
Image(s) © Terry Petersen. All rights reserved.
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