An Ode to My Son

After Accidentally

Beating Him in Chess




My boy, I didn’t know the incidental check I put you in was mate.

You had me.

Your first, legit, truly-earned victory was certainly no more than a half dozen moves away.

It had been a beautiful, grand ballet of a battle.

Your early lead. Of a piece, and then two.

Me whittling your gain down to four, then three, then two lowly pawns.

And, then, your Queen, majestic, returns.

She, pinky in the air, will say “skadoosh” and vanquish me.

It is over. Assuredly.

Six years of playing, and you and I are moments from celebrating your first zero-help game.

I fantasize about skipping around the room, releasing all of this joy that has built up in my body, as I slide my lone rook down the aisle to your end of the board.

“Check,” I say knowing my parry will do little more than let you know I haven’t given up.

But you don’t move.

You are looking, staring at me.

I re-analyze the board quickly.

I see what I don’t think I can see.

You can’t defend it. You can not.

Oh, my God!

I have won.

Mistakenly beaten you.

A win neither of us wanted for me.

You sit on my lap.

We cry and laugh and flit back and forth between the two.

We share a feeling whose name I don’t know.

I hold your 13-year-old body in my lap as you tell me how much you hate me and love me.

Honest. Cathartic.

I know. I know.

I love you, too.




I send an early draft of the above to my friend Pierce D. They suggested I pair it with the following poem by Hafez which adds depth and God to this.

Also, on February 11, in the morning before school, he finally did it. He won. The picture above is from then.





Hafez, I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy

What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?

The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move

That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.”

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