Exactly four different men have tried
to teach me how to play. I could never
tell the difference between a rook
or bishop, but I knew the horse meant
knight. And that made sense to me,
because a horse is night: soot-hoof
and nostril, dark as a sabled evening
with no stars, bats, or moon blooms.
It’s a night in Ohio where a man sleeps
alone one week and the next, the woman
he will eventually marry leans her body
into his for the first time, leans a kind
of faith, too—filled with white crickets
and bouquets of wild carrot. And
the months and the honeyed years
after that will make all the light
and dark squares feel like tiles
for a kitchen they can one day build
together. Every turn, every sacrificial
move—all the decoys, the castling,
the deflections—these will be both
riotous and unruly, the exact opposite
of what she thought she ever wanted
in the endgame of her days.
Copyright © 2015 by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 20, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
About this Poem
“I’ve always adored the marvelous and dramatic terminology of the game of chess. And I suppose some of that daydream-y distractedness was what kept me from ever fully understanding how exactly to play the game most of my life. What first started as a meditation on the game itself surprised me into a poem to celebrate ten years of marriage to the man who taught me (and continues to teach) with endless patience.”
Aimee Nezhukumatathil is the author of four poetry collections: Oceanic (Copper Canyon Press, 2018), Lucky Fish (Tupelo Press, 2011), winner of the 2011 Eric Hoffer Grand Prize; At the Drive-In Volcano (Tupelo Press, 2007), winner of the Balcones Poetry Prize; and Miracle Fruit (Tupelo Press, 2003), winner of the Global Filipino Award and the Tupelo Press Prize.
Date Published: 2015-11-20
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/chess