Not Chess

by Daniel R. Jones

(Note: this poem was originally published by Anxious Poet Society in their November 2018 issue.)

It’s nothing like a chess problem,
the toggling ardor,
this advance and retreat;
forward then back all black,
white and cerebral. 

It’s nothing like chess;
like the leather hand
stuck to a black bishop
I saw in a public park,
an ancient mind whirring overhead. 

It’s not chess,
but one could be forgiven
for assuming it was that
premeditated.
More like a dance. 

An ebb and flow,
fluid undulation of hips
he pedals her back.
She retreats, persists,
parries and twists; 

she comes on again
and he surrenders
before regrouping to
flit forward.
The two wax and wane. 

She was head and hands
when all he’d ever known
were girls made up of wrist and throat- 
Romances filled to the brim with heat and steam–
that fissured and cracked
when they cooled too quickly. 

It’s nothing like chess
in any way whatsoever,
save one. 
The Queen’s range of motion
far outmatches the King’s. 

And maybe it’s something of a game.
Amusing, at least, when she quotes Hemingway:
”What do you want to do?
Ruin me?”
“Yes. I want to ruin you.” 

Transience of Images (poem)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

Never mind
the Winter Solstice
passed and it’s no
longer Fall.

In the corner
of my three-season porch
Autumn’s last leaves
hang, entwined in a spider’s web.

Sienna- umber- ochre-
colored leaves
frozen
in mid-air,

like Autumn itself
in suspended
animation.

Help me, reader.
There’s a poem in there, somewhere,
but I haven’t quite worked it out.

Come Spring-cleaning,
stiff bristles will brush
the cobwebs from the walls.

I pass the arrangement
each morning
as I zip
up my coat.

Help me, reader.

Before I swish the display
out the screen door,
ephemera freed
from my mind.

Could you lend me
some meaning?
Meet me midway,
won’t you?

the wrenching of the HIp that Precedes the Blessing (poem)

(by Daniel R. Jones)

They all went black:
the fixed stars we use 
to navigate our broken lives. 

Now we’re cutting 
our way through the fog,
ambling away from Bethlehem.

Well-aware the cosmic ledger—
light and dark, joy and sorrow
is far from balanced, this side of Elysian fields.

Fearful of what it all means;
there’s a part of your soul that’s nocturnal;
rouses, comes awake when it’s dark.

On the same night
the physicists proved, mathematically
man has no soul,

the mystics proved, artistically
man does have a soul.
I inquired of God: which is true?

I was answered 
by a torrent of silence,
and the silence argued

if a thousand years is like a day,
and a day, a thousand years,
a generation of silence from God

is just a lull in the conversation. 
The silence pained me
like the wrenching of the hip 

that precedes the blessing.
and with each surpassing revelation, 
He became more mysterious.

Melancholic Magician (prose poem)

There once was a man with melancholy. A magician, in fact. A failed magician, in many respects, but a magician, nonetheless.

This sad magician sat, every day, with quill in hand at a writing desk, every day convinced that if he were to write down the perfect words, set in the exact order, it’d create a sort of magic rune which could cure him of the chronic anhedonia which plagued him.

At times, he got close. The incantation he set to paper was maybe a word off, when he read it aloud. So he’d tinker with the syntax and diction for a couple weeks, swapping the order of a couple words here; substituting a synonym there.

And those near misses sustained him, staving away his melancholy for a little while.

But because the respite was short-lived, he threw out the would-be healing spells and started fresh, hoping to one day cure his ailment.

On certain days, he’d leave his writing desk, exploring the world outside the four-walls of his study. 

For what if the incantation involved words I haven’t yet learned? he wondered. Signifiers for objects I may not yet know exist?

And the magician aged and his hidebound journals piled up, in the pursuit of the perfect words, set in perfect order.

And you’ve probably guessed, Dear Reader, that this magician is most every poet; that the magician is the writer scrawling on the other end of the page you’re now reading.

This poem, or whatever you call it, is, itself, an attempt at that magic rune.