The tiles seemed like cobblestones
as they zigzagged the board, strolling about
as if an Italian summer night.
But no villas lined the thumbnail of our streets—
the words she built more akin to castles
as she bore into the pith of my efforts:
Bear became bearded, reason grew treasonous.
I quit keeping score, broken like the boxer
who eats a hard right hand and finds himself
looking up at lights.
I swore to her I wouldn’t play again.
Pulling a bottle from the shelf,
I asked what else we could do in these hours
of winking starlight…
I woke to the squawk of cowbirds—
that time before morning when all is gray
but an eastern glimmer, the rising sun
like the white tip of a blacksmith’s iron.
Her face obscured by pillow and hair,
I listened as she breathed a hot cadence
of now and now, my own heart-rhythm
a step out of time.
I thought of the scattered tiles on the table—
of byways and canals that never meet,
the gulfs between sound and touch and taste
In those depths must be the words
that one cannot define.