world

The Chessboard of Coronavirus.

 

“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.”

My mind is a constant fuss of next steps and to-do lists. A game of chess. I am forever focused on how to protect my king piece, how to reign supreme over the dream I’ve kept embedded beneath my skin like a Cholla cactus spike. I will forever play opposition with my queen, putting her on the battle’s edge, offering her up to almost anything, always with the end goal in mind.

Now? The gears of time have come to a screeching halt like someone took a hammer to the clappers. A petulant child swept her tiny fists in tantrum and wreaked havoc upon the board — all the pawns trampled by horses, and castles blown apart. I don’t know who held the king in checkmate, but we are at a stalemate. I cannot see a move that would prove me victorious.

The news speaking of a return to normalcy means reopening the economy, which means the rich just want to know when they can line their pockets again with our coins.

I, the lone soldier whose battalion abandoned her, waiting for the smoke to clear, see no signs of normal. How can the bloodstains on this battlefield ever truly be erased? How can the bludgeoned bodies ever really leave? Their ghosts will forever haunt the hospital halls, and I hate horror movies.

I am afraid. I am afraid. I am afraid. Like the Catholic crossing herself superstitious about the devil and possession. Holding my breath as I passed a graveyard, with our backyards becoming graveyards.

The only test feels like a rape.

No cure and no reprieve. The cavity of lungs becomes a hell no bible could portend. Do you know what it is to stop breathing? That momentary bulge of eye and the hopeless clutching like the faithless to a rosary, the holy moment the windpipe finally tunnels open?

I clasp my hands through a tunnel and pray until the bus moves through the end, and don’t release my breath through the subway until I arrive above ground, and that is not because of the stench. It is like the moth’s feathered wing that disintegrates in the porch light’s heat that everything is a kiss with chance and a peppering of luck for good measure.

I fear of such chance that runs out. How a tree seems sturdy through time, still the wind will sever its branch just the same. How a bone like a boulder can still break in the quaking of the earth.

I am afraid I will never sit at a bar and curse the sticky top. Will never feel the crowd rise up like a wave in the ocean of music’s velocity and break upon the Tennessee grass charred in the splintering sun. That the older I become, the more I have to be afraid of.

The guns and the hurricanes and the humanity tossed like the pieces in a chess game, my queen grown tired of fighting for a 2 x 2.5 inch square — the only space she’s ever been allotted to exist in.

How are we supposed to set our pieces straight and continue on with the game? If my queen falls in anarchy, who will resuscitate her? Will I ever look at old men playing chess in the park the same? I look at the board and see battle plans, but our general has abandoned the company. What happens to an army when there’s no one to lead?

It is said all this anxiety is because one is living in the future, but the scholars don’t teach you how to make peace with now.

If my pawn is all that remains to protect my king in the middle of an open field in a lightning-striking storm, then I will inch on square by square to whatever light shivers behind the clouds up there.

Once I make it to the other side of the board, the queen can be retrieved, the smallest piece… the bigger the need to win.

My mind is a constant fuss, and I am worried and afraid, like I am stuck on the bus in Lincoln Tunnel traffic and cannot see the opening. But the present is about preparing, a chess game is calculating as many as six moves ahead, and I have always known where I am going and how I am going to win.

***

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Alise Versella
Alise Versella is a poet living at the Jersey Shore. She has published three volumes of poetry which can be found at her website, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. Her work has been featured on Elephant Journal, Women's Spiritual Poetry blog, ultraviolettribe.com, The Tattooed Buddha, and of course here. She considers herself a coffee enthusiast and self-proclaimed dessert whore, who believes with every fiber of her being that poetry, beautiful poetry, can come from the ugliest of pain. Poetry can be the salve for all the broken parts, and it can make us whole.
Alise Versella
Alise Versella