Sunday Poem

A Game of Chess

In Washington Square Park, astonishing late October
turns a yellow leaf as airily as spring.
Everything slices up the light—the office towers,
the bough above a woman cutting a man’s hair

by the finished roses. Water blazes from the fountain
and bible quotes done in chalk are dust beneath
the feet of the fiddler playing bluegrass for a few coins.
It is so very hard to get close to anything.

Over where the public chess tables
stand in latticed shade, their concentration
makes the players seem all of a piece,
and the heart wants to sleep. But even here
a small upheaval . . .

A black man, serious and soft, and a white boy
maybe ten years old, pressed into his sharp collared shirt,
engage in the abstract and the real.

Here, I am given the space to see
the boy let go his queen
too soon, the look on his face.

The man takes the queen away
and the empty square is an immensity
the boy cannot move

then the man succeeds in taking us all in
when he puts her back contrariwise,
leans and smiles—Don’t you be doing that again.

And a boy grows in the light, and a man loses
because he loves. And all the season does
is throw down leaves and divvy up the sun
above the chessmen on their chequered field.

by Cally Conan-Davies
the Hudson Review