he'd never let anyone beat him
at chess, at least, not on purpose. Not
a child, not a lover, and certainly not a dying parent.
He brags about playing his hardest against
his sick mother, who never beat him,
until the last game they played, a few days
before she died. She just played a better game
for once, my friend says. He is still proud,
I can see, of a lifetime of beating her.
My husband, also a man in his fifties, chimes in
about how he's played Scrabble with his mother,
a renknowned poet, novelist, and translator
all his life, and beat her again and again.
He's proud, too, because she really knows
words: she speaks five languages and even
translated Alice in Wonderland into Dutch.
He swears he'd never not play as hard as he could
against her, no matter what, and even now,
as she lies with a broken hip, he thinks of
the games they will play (and he will win)
when we visit for the holidays.
I listen to them talk, these two people I love,
in awe of such ignorance, and I imagine them
young again, boys, like my son once was, their
lips pursed in concentration planning their
next devastating move against the one who
had power over them. I loved those games
with my son, those few moments we were locked
together intimately, doing something we both loved.
I wanted the game to last forever. How I loved
looking at him concentrating so hard on beating
me, how my friend and my husband
look just like my son did, in my mind's eye,
in those games I let him win
again and again.