King of the Mountain

Mag Challenge 309

chess-players union square damien deroueneKing of the Mountain

On a winter afternoon
A father takes his children
On an outing in the square
In the city sun and open air.

And there out in the square they sit
Kings of the mountain, black and white
Presiding over kingdoms black and white
A Game of Squares played on tessellated pavement
Pieces that can only move in certain ways.
A catalog of ancient power
A peasantry of Catspaws
Anchored at the corners by the Fortresses
Mighty Military
All laid out in black and white.

Do they see it?
Layers upon layers
The game within a game
Within a game.

Day after day
The old black man
Sets out the armies on their battlefield
For the noble game of Monarchs,
Takes on all comers,
Always plays the black.

The young white father
Teaching son and heir
How to play the game to win.
The boy who would be king
Tests his mettle, builds his skill
While the game is still a game.

Do they see it?
Which pieces have the most to lose.
Where the real power lies.
What it takes to win the game.

The eyes of all the men
Are on the game board
Playing Army
Strategy, maneuvering
Capturing each others’ pieces
Testing who can out think who
Who has the moves
Who has the most to win or lose.
But the little girl is playing Princess
Watching players, not the play.
What is she learning?
From the black king on his throne of milk crates
About power and empowerment
Which moves are allowed
Which not.

Does she see it?
That there is
Only one piece like her on the board.
That rank is not the same as power.

The old black man,
The aging monarch of the squares
Chooses his battlegrounds with care.
Knows much more than he wants to
About winning battles and losing wars.
How being ruler of sufficient
Is simpler and wiser
Than trying to be king of everything.
Does he see the ironies?
That a pawn turns into anything
If only it can reach the other side unscathed.
That Kings and Pawns are hobbled equally.
That the piece with all the moves
Is not the King.
That white always moves first.

The king is dead; Long live the king.

4 thoughts on “King of the Mountain

  1. I loved this line:

    “being ruler of sufficient
    Is simpler and wiser
    Than trying to be king of everything.”

    Methinks at least one of our presidential candidates has yet to learn that lesson. Maybe more. This certainly brought back memories of playing chess iwth my dad. I haven’t played in years, but it all came back as I was reading the poem, and pondering its various levels of meaning.

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