No 100 - 2001
We first met in the local library.
with both of us reaching for the same book.
He conceded with grace, a fallen king
with a crown of dishevelled greying hair
and a moustache of bristling glory,
as vibrant as in younger, darker days,
when he battled against the Luftwaffe.
He came, an émigré from invasion,
set on revenging his ravaged Poland.
A large man, large appetites, large desires.
Remorseless in conflict, like an eagle
seeking sustenance for a new born brood.
Hunting, killing, with the apparent ease
of a Queen rampaging through exposed pawns.
Into the midst of personalised war.
came peaceful passion with an English girl.
her coolness of soul softening his heat.
A wedding, hastened by morality
and unspoken thoughts of sudden endings,
but with hindsight a passion “en passant”,
better left for end game developments.
That war was ended and the board reset.
No chance of return to wounded Poland,
now overseen by different masters.
The mundane was not on the agenda,
no nine to five if you crave excitement.
When you’ve flown fears beyond extinction.
how can you ever walk a charted course.
When we first met forty years had elapsed.
filled with enthusiasms, disappointments.
some short lived success, much long lived failure.
so much sacrificed with too little gained.
His wife had gone to distant memory.
left him for a suburban accountant
and life with no trace of melodrama.
Friendship grew, we met every Tuesday
in his dowdy bedsit in Pedlam Road.
The board was ready, I brought the vodka.
We’d talk and play and drink and play and talk.
about the fall of Russian communism,
the wonder that was Poland in winter,
a new business opportunity,
the Ruy Lopez opening, Count Basie,
the dark haired lady in the downstairs room,
the beauty that was Poland in summer.
Then when the talk started turning maudlin,
the moves erratic and lacking forethought,
the bottle extinguished ready for binning,
I would take my leave for another week.
A neighbour found him, one Sunday morning,
slumped deep in his chair with the board laid out.
The inevitable glass close to hand.
He’d replayed Fischer v. Spassky game 6,
World Championship 1972.
Analysis made, the final move played.
a free spirit flies, in the Polish skies.
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