Mum, how about a game of chess, he says for the umpteenth time.
The sun in his gaze if I don’t shake my head at once
I no longer dare to put out.
So we sit silently hunched over the chessboard
and cautiously slide our pieces over the smooth wood.
We are skaters afraid of slipping and falling, my son and I,
so different from how earlier my father let his black knights
dance over the battlefield with loud crashes,
his broad fingers ready to take grab my very last pawn.
Is it since then that I am a no longer a girl
that is fond of games?
The clock ticks too loudly, in the silent room I hear my own breath,
I want this plodding away through drifting snow
to be over quickly, let pieces be taken and feign regret,
My son drags out the game, chews cheerfully away
on chewing gum that has long since lost its flavour.
Get a move on, I say more sharply than I meant to,
he quickly sacrifices his rook, now our game will last a while yet.
At the same time we hold each other hostage: who’s the cat, who’s the mouse?
Grumpily our dead fathers look on.