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Death Playing Chess, Albertus Pictor, 15th Century

Left fifteenth floor an hour ago. Still snow, third of April
Of the year, moss-agate still. Will try to will myself
To sleep. Magical thoughts move intravenously in hospital,
And there is also harm beyond my own imagination’s gift
For clemency. Turned one hematite-dark square
In the Unresponsive Blood Ward, one rose angle past
            Denial looking at his torso bare.
North of Stockholm, in a dulled medieval painting
Nearly primitive, a feudal lord is playing chess with bony
Death (come, of course, to take our marrow’s lives). File
Or rank, I would be the chalkstone rook. Look over
Your left shoulder blade, handsome boy, you
Will move only in the L’s. You will be adamant,
            The horse-carved knight.

This poem ran in the February 17, 2011, issue of the magazine.

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