Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 107 in 2004.
For Kenneth Koch
The claw crackers, small thin forks, knuckle
the passing of equipment back and forth
from the table head (our hostess)
then back and around
like roulette, misses and near misses
a pas de deux, the sound, and the fish smell;
the squirts bull's-eye your neighbor.
Our rigging and tackle, our bibs,
strike and crash
the fun is nonstop (the horsing around)
high low, draw poker, penny ante, or...
while shuffling toward the sword dancer
heel to toe, bluffing as we make the rounds.
Dedicating this to you is like cheating,
the naming and listing of games
your dance card full, your chip cup too.
Please tell me the name of your favorite river.
Running water over our hands, squeezing
lemon to remove the smell--
the color of roe your smile
devious as you hide the ace of spades
(no, the jack of hearts)
under the bridge
just a large table
a successful finesse nonetheless.