Chess by Jorge Luis Borges


Jorge Luis Borges – Selected Poems
Edited by Alexander Coleman,
Copyright 1999
Published by Viking, New York, Ny.
Page 103


Set in their studious corners, the players
move the gradual pieces. Until dawn
the chessboard keeps them in it’s strict confinement
with its two colors set at daggers drawn.

Within the game itself the forms give off
their magic rules: Homeric castle, knight
swift to attack, queen warlike, king decisive,
slanted bishop, and attacking pawns.

Eventually, when the players have withdrawn,
when time itself has finally consumed them,
the ritual will certainly not be done.

It was in the East this war took fire.
Today the whole earth is its theatre.
Like the game of love, this game goes on forever.


Faint-hearted king, sly bishop, ruthless queen,
strraightforward castle, and deceitful pawn -
over the checkered lack and white terrain
they seek out and begin their armed campaign.

They do not know it is the players hand
that dominates and guides their destiny.
They do not know an adamantine fate
controld their will and the battle plan.

The player too is captive of caprice
(the words are Omar’s) on another ground
where black nights alternate with whiter days.

God moves the player, he in turn the piece.
But what god beyond God begins the round
of dust and time and sleep and agonies?

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