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by William A. Holt
First, fifteen minutes of this and that--
committees, projects, news and books.
They have much in common: a house, two children,
a love of language, art, and music,
equal positions in the same department,
and tenure--just this year.

Then he broaches the Question:
well, what of us?
And from its case they take the worn planchette.
Fingers atremble, they wait and waver.
The little pointer determinedly points

Then--movement on the scarred board!

It speaks of him. Wrong! He knows she did it.
It speaks of her. Wrong! She knows he did it.

He knows it wasn't he--or was it?
She knows it wasn't she--or was it?

Accuse. Deny. Rage. Weep.
All under control. All kept on the square little board
where messages multiply, mutate, and mutilate.
This was the agreed-on ground.

But they grow tired,
knowing, each, where the other misunderstands
and knowing--or do they? who has forced a move.
At last they remove their hands,
put the planchette and board away,
a little saltier with a few new tears,
he loving her but fearing her anger and hating his fear
she loving him but likewise in fear and in hate--

But weren't you pushing that thing around the whole time?
each asks speechlessly.

Locked in a game of chance,
held in a trance,
playing together

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Copyright © 1998 by William A. Holt. All rights reserved.