False Dilemma

Kiss me. Take me by the throat and stab my plans from deep within, then maybe guess my next move.

You advance a spearhead of pawns, useless, you say. Amongst them your princess is brutally murdered: pity, she could have been queen.

Grip my hair. Pull my face forward so it breathes you, smile so my spine jars; behind the lips there’s always the fangs.

There is a pressure in your fingers that tells me you wish you could let go. but not now, you say, not when first blood has been drawn. Wars end when they begin, never resignation halfway. I will not let you have your prize; you will not let me have my pride.

This is how we dance; black and white; false dilemma.

There is a brutality to the way you play—very attractive, but I will not risk unnecessarily when I know you are the sort to take a trade of queens. See how you leave your knights for dead; you are too dangerous for me.

some sacrifices must be made, you cry, as another bishop falls to a pawn, diagonal. Some, really? We’ll keep playing, and when it’s just you and your king, I wonder what you’ll say in your defence.

Capture my castle when your own has crumbled; your blood shatters across the files. My plot lies twenty steps into the future; you will never see it. And I will never see yours—is this recklessness or is this a ruse? The squares are marred, and we are bleeding, bleeding both, yet neither of us will give just yet.

why don’t we end this, you plead as if it were a command. But truce always ends; you know this better than I. We are circling. Masochism tango, they call it? I know you could be mine. I’m yours already. But you refuse to relinquish a battle that is killing us both.

Some ploys work better than others. Perhaps it’s my fault, for lying to you. Perhaps it’s yours, for making it so hard to be honest.

But my queen glides forth, and your king has nowhere to hide. check,

mate. I try not to sound smug.

another game?

Something somewhat old.




Just like the swifts that bargained with Charles Darwin and lost
their legs to the sky, you seem certain freedom
will compensate death, much the same way
you’d toss dollars in wells for happiness
when nickels would suffice for the same
in a gambler’s machine.

I think you think you are a swift, uncurling
from the shards of rules you broke ramming your head
straight through them. You may be bleeding but your grin seeps teal, green
mantras, we’ll live free and for the greater good like every
tyrant who’s ever lived.

You’d like to be a leaf in a book, but I don’t think
you’re the sort to keep within bindings without ripping them
clean. You’d burst margins like rivers break
banks and topple trees, leaving the adventuring swifts nowhere
to roost.

Every year at thousand-mile flyways, we watch birds break
into apple song, leaping to pursue ancient routes marked on neural maps—
no eyes for lighthouses or garages on the coastal wayside, nor
the crows’ telegraph poles—praying instead that new caves spring
from the sand to house them
in crackling cape towns halfway down latitudes
when the world tilts and the north freezes over

If swifts knew astrology they’d know
their stars are good at least once a year.

But the better parts of your legs lie trophies
in Darwin’s cabinet and we know when you fly, you fly
in pursuit of your death.


I am not a swift.

I like the walls.
We might be butterflies in a bell jar
lid held shut by the monarch’s ring finger
and perhaps to you the cocooning is only
my prison

You’d like to slit the silken threads
but that seems no better to me,
only an exchange of some dreary safety
for some exhilarating peril.

I’d rather die slowly, old books in
my lungs, rusting
crown about my neck
than plunge straight through windows
the way you do.