Peter Serchuk

Poetry & Other Important Things

Poem Of The Week: Rules of Chess

Rules of Chess

The Pawn is always a pawn, a sucker the dealer spots

a mile away, a collector of dreams with pockets full of holes.

Year after year, he’s ready to follow whichever King tells

the best lie. He walks behind the royal mount with a shovel,

digs the royal moat, builds the royal castle and sooner

or later volunteers his final breaths for not-so-royal wars,

killing nameless pawns of other colors.

 

The Rook knows that he’s an outcast, relegated to corners,

shuffling side to side. By living on the edge, he’s learned

that pride is deadly. Better to be quick and nimble outside

the line of fire. Better to be half as tall as the living and twice

as smart as the dead. He’s too far from the King to envy

his crown. When the sky begins to fall, when the clock is

winding down, he knows it’s best to stay close to the Queen

for she is the Pièce de Résistance.

 

The Knight and his steed are one, indistinguishable

even to their spouses. Both are brave but the horse is wiser,

charging ahead toward the point of a lance, then a quick step

sideways. To see them in full regalia, one couldn’t guess

they once earned their stripes in the circus; chasing after

lazy clowns and jumping through hoops of fire. Until that

lazy clowns and jumping through hoops of fire. Until that

fateful day when they were drafted to trade the laughter

of children for the tantrums of the Sire.

 

The Bishop stands straight and tall, so close to both King

and Queen he imagines himself of royal blood. No fool for

the afterlife, he knows this is where the real game is played;

so his faith is flattering the upper hand just in case heaven

doesn’t return his calls. Still, being the Creator’s ambassador

on Earth, naturally he prays for peace, love and a better world.

But until that day comes, his path is traveling the diamond’s edge,

ready to surprise non-believers with the light of darkness.

 

Everyone is devoted to their Queen, especially the King,

for love may follow the wind but only devotion saves you

from the grave. Her music is the drumbeat of the hour.

As she moves, so moves the Kingdom and she moves

whichever way desire or necessity demands.

God save the Queen! God save the Queen!

If she lives to old age, victory is assured. And if she dies

young, then things fall apart, the center cannot hold,

as one wise Irish bard once foretold.

 

The King keeps himself hidden, miles behind the front lines

of chance. His crown aside, he’s powerless. He sits on a throne

of other men’s blood surrounded by mirrors. The mirrors

are clean but his eyes are not, so what he sees reflected is

always twice the size of any doubt. All through the battle,

he shuffles back and forth, front and back, paralyzed by fear,

begging the Knight to stand beside him, the Bishop to repeat

how God adores him, the Rook to stand watch on the parapet

and the Queen to love him, for all he is and cannot be,

until the bitter end.