Playing Checkers with Granddad

“Playing Checkers with Granddad,” New Era, Aug. 1992, 20

Playing Checkers with Granddad

Granddad taught me checkers

when I was six. I admired

his eyes each time

my back five waited in danger,

but he would not let me prevail.

Not once. Year after year

we played checkers

on our oakwood table,

pieces on my end

swallowed by his thumb

and forefinger. He jumped

three in one second.

“Protect your front,” he declared.

With my life, I tried,

but lost my checker eye

under his translucent stare.

He’d tell me once or twice

I was improving, his words

enough to set up another board.

At eighteen my victory cry

sounds through the house

and stops, a vacuum pulling

pieces backwards, warning him

of his danger, his life unknown.

Now I have to tell Grandma

Granddad is dying.

I hesitate this time,

my front checkers unguarded.