Poem for the God of Stalemate
by Audrey Gradzewicz
Because I can’t say I’m sorry, I tell you We should play chess, only I do not say it. When I was young, my sister learned chess from a blind man who held all the spaces of a chessboard in his mind as clearly as chapters from his own life. She tried to teach me, but I kept imagining the board as the checkered floor in a supermarket, kept imagining the queen worrying over the price of meat. At school, the custodian who’d find me sleeping in the hallways late, late at night, would nudge me awake, bring out his travel-sized chessboard. Always, he would speak gently as he led me through checkmating him. If ever there was kindness in my life, it was this. Now when I do not understand the dark sea in your head, the way it pulls me in and under, I ask the tarot: What is this man?, but I am shown only the moon of my own face: fear, a shadow. When I ask the I Ching, you are shown to me as a mountain there is no moving. We have no language between us. We have only ghosts between us. Their shapes uneasy as the eve of a millennium; their chatter, like mine, false and helium light. The I Ching says misfortune. The tarot shows a heart pierced with swords and suspended in air. There is nothing for it. In chess, I am always beginning, but see how quickly I leave you with nearly nothing but your limping king, until the thing in me that cries out mercy! cries out mercy! See how for us, there is equal loss.
Audrey Gradzewicz was born in Buffalo, New York. Her poems have been published by, or are forthcoming from, Southern Indiana Review, Thank You for Swallowing, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, Poets.org, Mid-American Review, Ninth Letter, The Puritan, Passages North, Lockjaw, and Smartish Pace.