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Two oldtimers playing chess on a Central Park bench in New York City, May 1946. National Archives — public domain

toting their armies in a box

the old men go to claim their turf

their pace a little slower every day

with every step their heels more calloused

their bones more brittle

yet ready to do battle

as they spread their field

of black and white

on their bench by the ancient sycamore

and huddled in a cloud of camphor

to keep the moths and time at bay

and too much Kölnisch Wasser

to hide the fusty odour of old age

they puppeteer

their kings and queens and pawns

across the squares

the jesters always missing

but bishops present to please god

because these battles are no joke

and god upholds their cause

and from time to time

they’ll pause to gawk

as youth blades by

skates by

runs by

and waves


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