Tuesday, November 6, 2018


The Stakes

So what are the stakes?
What are we even playing for?
Is there an ultimate prize
Or is it just a war of attrition,
A battle to be the last man standing
In a land of sudden silence
If you bother to stop and listen

Was this all a big mistake,
A wasted siege of long
Abandoned castles.
Perfectly executed plan
But the enemies are long gone.
The shadows in the windows were cast
By motionless wooden fakes.

Tell me the stakes.
What will you put on the line?
I have pushed forward my own last dime
While you have one foot in shallow grave
And one toe tip dipped in a frigid lake.
Everything is more interesting when there is something at stake.
Everything is more interesting when you can’t afford to lose.
Everything is more interesting
When you’re down to your last chip
When you're all out of time.

But consider:
There’s nothing at stake
You’re sitting around an imaginary table
With imaginary friends
Condemned to the same imaginary fate.
The game itself will have to suffice.
Your pile of chips is just a glacier of melting ice.
And the cards are shards of splintering trees.
There is no heaven.
There is no hell.
No redemption.
No eternal gnashing of teeth.
There is no final justice,
No pearly gates,
No hounds of hell.
No one is there to tally your scores.
The second you rise from the table
All your winnings disappear.
It's the nothingness you've always feared.

A youngster arrives to play
And wants to know the stakes.
You are now one of the grim grizzled veterans
Nodding your heads with knowing grins.
This is when the game really begins.
The cards keep coming, round and round.
Dry mouth, inelastic skin
Rasping thirst no stream could ever slake
There are no stakes.
There are no stakes.
You remind yourself.
There are no lakes of lava waiting to steam your sins
You say a heart breaks but what is that sound we hear pounding in your chest?
You can’t lose what you never had.
Bet the house, push all in.
Bluffing is the same as playing;
Your full house, your royal flush
Your lonesome pair of smudged black threes.

The Kings are all fakes.
The Queens are all fakes.
The Ace up your sleeve is the only true thing
But it can’t be played here;
Here, everyone is watching.

There is only this moment in time
When you play this card,
When you play that card,
And you play your last card,
Before the earth quivers and shakes,
Before our hearts all start to shudder,
Before this one true heart breaks.


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