Chess

A Poem by Thomas Reed Willemain

The long, rainy ride
Down to Baltimore
Gave me plenty of time
To wonder how to play it,
Knowing it might be
The last trip but one.

I decided to let him decide.
It was his death not mine.
I would listen hard to see
If he wanted to talk about it.
I never heard the cues
And maybe there were none.

So we played chess in my hotel,
Interrupting ourselves
With trash talk and questions
About kids and politics and cars.
We were two guys circling around
What Saint Francis called
Little Sister Death of the Body.

We sensed the significance.
Seventy-two years before,
Both our fathers had played
At the front in Germany,
Underneath an outgoing
Artillery barrage.
Who won is lost to history.
But they both came home,
And so here we were.

One of us won the game,
Then I dropped him off,
Said a casual goodbye,
And watched him walk
Much too slowly
Up his sidewalk.
I drove back to the hotel
And worked on something
Technical and neutral
So I could pretend
It was only a game of chess.

Dr. Thomas Reed Willemain is an emeritus professor of statistics, software entrepreneur, and former intelligence officer. He holds degrees from Princeton University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His poetry has been published in “Sheila-Na-Gig “, “Typishly”, “Eye Flash Poetry Journal”, “Panoplyzine”, “Idle Ink”, “Constellate Magazine”, “Autumn Sky Poetry Daily” and the “The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics.” A native of western Massachusetts, he lives near the Mohawk River in upstate New York.

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