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; 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.