Playing Chess with the Devil 

No stunted horns, no crimson scales,
no blistered reptile tail—
his misbuttoned shirt and butch haircut,
the helpless blunder of his face
are like the man the bank sends
to finalize your foreclosure.

Hours on a wooden kneeler
until my bones crack,
the azure-footed angels that float
like cars beneath my dreams
should prepare me for this.
But there’s no one else
to think each move, to spot
each scorpion dressed as a fish,
each stone tricked out like a loaf.

All I can do is contend—
rooks on one file; knights
in play, drawbridge stoppered
by a rack of pawns.
My prayers go up, wildly at first—
a flock of birds bolt across his forehead
before finding an open window. 
For the moment, his confidence seems shaken.
 —Dan Bachhuber, St. Paul, MN