She plays cards, he reads the papers.

Red queen on king, black;
how to free the young jack?

Pasteboards clatter on the kitchen table,
research monographs rustle in the den,
the dry sounds blend as we shuffle
the tangled numbers over, seeking pattern
in what falls by chance, clear resolution.

Pick it up and start again.
But what if X is only 10?

She cuts, I regard the stacked
deck, we shuffle together
for tea at the stove, compare notes:

18 of 30, that's 60%,
love do you know
where the time went?

Then back to the table, the chair, what might count
in this shrunken world, with its few
and endless permutations, familiar, an order
within our grasp, that dissolves
as the dry musics rise again.

Red queen on king, black.
How to free the young jack?



The knave is at play, as the first hairs fall
he plucks them from the comb to chop as fine
as what he can’t reach inside, itch powder
to afflict his friends. As tufts come loose
he grasps their magic with wicked cheer,
flings one in my lap. “Gross!” I exclaim.
He grins, reassured: this will trump
what he's lost in rough-house at school
for two weeks, maybe more with the few
he let see the scar, this power he must bear
as he enters the dark, and after that
who knows?

18 Jan  81