In early fall and late spring I used to watch old men play chess in Central Park
|Nothing above except the sun|
with articulate warmth
painting the park, the trees, the leaves, the pond,
and the choiceless pawns on stone-slab benches.
Faded men crowd into excitement;
their paths crossed in exile, retired,
fathoming a move straight ahead,
in files or diagonals,
shaping their last breath.
Game pieces sliding on concrete tables,
re-cementing checkered lives
with silver-white tactics,
and hierarchy's strategy.
Gasping, almost there, once the knight
jumps over the rook.
The other king's blocked
by his own pawns,
both bishops sliding aslant,
that coquettish queen flirting everywhere;
there will be no castling today.
Checkmate, only two syllables,
yet powerful enough
to postpone the morning news.
Surface tension suspended upon camaraderie,
seeded or not, everyone's
Fisher and Spassky on the green;
for to win with a pawn conquers the everafter.