Checkmate by Bartholomew Barker

I taught my wife chess
too well. She countered
all my moves with ease.

"Chinese or pizza tonight?"
  I didn't care.
"Pick one."
  Okay— Chinese.
"Let's get pizza."

There were also good times—
long talks on hikes with dogs,
laughs over sushi and sake
but just enough rejection
that I felt like failure.

I suggested bike rides,
nights at the theater,
dinners with friends—
all declined.

As the refusals accumulated
I stopped trying,
conceded the game
as though I'd been mated.

It was long after the match
that I realized I'd learned too well.
I should have practiced forgetting
because sometimes "no" means "not now"
and that her caprice, while maddening,
meant I could have always made another move.
Photo by Gladson Xavier on

About the Poet:

Bartholomew Barker is one of the organizers of Living Poetry, a collection of poets and poetry readers in the Triangle region of North Carolina. His first poetry collection, Wednesday Night Regular, written in and about strip clubs, was published in 2013. His second, Milkshakes and Chilidogs, a chapbook of food inspired poetry was served in 2017. Born and raised in Ohio, studied in Chicago, he worked in Connecticut for nearly twenty years before moving to Hillsborough where he makes money as a computer programmer to fund his poetry habit.

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