the queen’s knight’s pawn reflects on his station

I hear it:
There is action – there, to the northeast – far away, in the center
Representatives of the church and the military are jockeying for position
My brothers, interchangeable, advance, hold their ground, spar briefly
retire in pairs to the sidelines, or stare mutely into each other’s round faces

but I, I stand here, fixated by duty
in the shadow of my Queen’s crenellated redoubt
my patron rises, tense, behind me – he would pace if he could –
eager to leap over my head and bolt into the fray

Perhaps I shall be called to advance
if for no other reason, but to let the bishop escape, so he might creep quietly to the edge
and cast his gaze upon the antipodes
where my cousins maintain their own quiet vigil

Depending on the order of the day
sometimes I stand proudly before Their Majesties
I lead the attack, I start the gambit, perhaps I take one for the team
but today, no, today I must remain here
while far away, on the other edge of the world, the cries and shouts ring out
as the Kings retreat, dancing sideways to their corners

The initial dust has settled, the Queens have emerged
They scan the battlefield, assert their prerogatives, dart and weave,
my fellows fall or flee –
and for one chilling moment I feel her dark gaze …
But no, she has other, more interesting prey, other territories
more useful to her designs

At times I wish a Knight would scoop me up as he passes above me,
dropping me on the saddle behind him
with the same fluid motion that brings his hand to his scabbard
before we plunge into the thick of things

What? Already the endgame’s pallor has settled on the field
One moment’s inattention, one possibility unseen, brings all to ruin
I remain untouched, unused, the castle stands secure
But what of it? The Queen is gone, the grieving King encircled
I watch him, helpless, as he topples

But my task is completed, my duty fulfilled
The ground shifts, tumbling us together
And once more we fall heedlessly
and settle into our common tomb


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