Chess by Intikana Kekoeia

Editor’s Pick

image courtesy of Dinah Ismail

Leaning in from his rocking chair
My grandfather held up a wooden chessboard
And said, “Look forward. Stop Pretending. All you will ever want is here.”
And within seconds…
I saw 65 boxes
Options with vacant imagination dispersed along dry swords and their outcomes
In a flash, I witnessed the presence of possibility
Encouraging the necessary decisions alongside a soldier’s destiny
The obvious yet meant to be subliminal
Ongoing battle between
White and Black
Dress coded and given ranks
My Grandfather set up the pieces
Explained the rules
And told me that before going any further
I needed to earn my position on the board
I paused because that was the first time
He had ever given me something important to do
He survived the 65th Infantry Regiment of World Word II
And I’m happy he did
Although not initially a King
He showed me that once pawns reached the other end of the board
They could transform into a n y t h i n g they wanted to become
Unfortunately for me, he was not interested in personal details
So for his sake, I’ll spare you the pixels
There was so much we needed to say
But instead we spoke without speaking
Through these pieces, we communicated
And exchanged what with words we wouldn’t
I was more frustrated than upset
Because I figured if I could beat them
Then maybe I had a chance at getting that much closer towards
Conceiving the delicate framework of my Grandfather’s thoughts
Wanting to be nothing more than a boy who considers the Intangible
Cuz nothing is as elegant as you can fathom it
Colorless like gender
Untitled and inherently intentional
Fundamentally que gente llama un sueño
I learned that infants don’t cry for attention
They weep because they don’t know how to tell you where it hurts
A pain hard to interpret like a play on words
The need for a queen to help me accomplish the impossible
More so when my moral is low and it seems as though the stakes are surrounded
Isolated with unbearable pressure breaking down boundaries
Vomiting on my own guilt
Promise after promise
That’s why I place such a heavy emphasis on keeping mine
Grandpa, I don’t know you
Between your afternoon naps
And ability to predict the every move I make before making it
All I remember is that I used to get you water sometimes
And play chess…
This world has so much to offer
I’m trying to bring my neck from out of the trenches
Infested with these regrets eating away at my flesh
The bishops are laughing but seriously they can’t see straight
My Grandfather’s no longer alive
But damn it, I still hear him on the porch hitting the top of the speed clock
But what do you do when all you have in your hand is a pen?
And all your friends are holding 9 double Ms
Prepared to roll down the window
Willing to sacrifice everything they have
The knights are ready to ride
With secretaries…mechanical
Leaping at the expense of the shoulder blades of peasants
Hierarchy pyramids pointing towards history
Just like this circle of a treadmill we’re running
Cuz the floor beneath the floor is…still
But I guess it’s my turn Grandpa
It wasn’t until Diabetes took control of your side of the board
Causing you to hallucinate
And make moves you and I both know you would never make
For me, eternity evaporated the instant competition between us diminished
That’s when I first realized victory without dignity doesn’t mean a thing
My love is still beckoning
I’m waiting for the right moment to castle
Slapping mosquitoes like I’m back in Puerto Rico
Picking at the scab afterwards
Making sure to never forget the warriors of our past
Like my Grandfather…a King
Taking one step at a time
Because win, lose or draw
We will always be aligned with the stars

Intikana Kekoeia, a SUNY Oneonta alumni, is an esteemed poet, educator, musician, filmmaker and photographer whom, originally from Puerto Rico, is well-known in the northeast as a social activist, represented through his many skills. Learn more at

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