“The Game”

It’s far too easy
to play the game,
a roll of die:
just say his name.

It’s far too simple
to cast the part,
a role, a guise,
to swoon the heart.

It’s far too long
since swollen eye;
faith begets myth
when children die.

It’s far too tragic,
the gnashing jaw
that curses God,
embraces law.

It’s far from over,
I’ve heard there’s time,
but don’t look now…
the sky draws nigh.

author’s notes

The meter of “The Game” is rather simple, iambic in beat. It’s funny, how writing styles change over time. I can remember detesting simple rhymes and meters when I first studied poetry in university. And now, I have discovered a respect for common rhythms.

The first stanza is benign enough. I begin with the allusion to some “game” by rolling dice. The game itself is not a literal activity. We will see this later. You see in the final line of this stanza that I compare rolling the dice with speaking to or about someone (“just say his name”).

Now the game changes faces. We move from dice to drama (“cast the part” and “a role, a guise”). This enables me to generalize the game, to move from specific to a more symbolic device. The use of acting as the “game” in stanza 2 is important however. The final line draws the parallel: “to swoon the heart,” which for me shows the ease with which an audience and a loved one can be fooled.

In stanza 3, I change the focus without changing the tempo. You see that instead of introducing another form of the “game,” I look at the effects of playing the game has on the player. “Swollen eye” symbolizes the genuine person, sensitive to childlike clarity. Then in line 3 and 4, I take a spiritual direction. “When children die” is an allusion to growing old and losing the faith of a child, at which point “Faith begets myth.” Literally, what we believed as children becomes mythical stories if we don’t defend them.

Stanza 4 furthers this direction. “The gnashing jaw” is the embittered adult that is far from childlike faith in God. As we move from that innocent faith in our youth, we migrate toward legality (“embraces law”). The two are mutually exclusive, but alas we are force to make concessions and compromises with adulthood. The eternal conundrum.

Finally, there is hope in the 5th stanza. You’ll notice that this is the only stanza that is first person. That’s also important, since the preceding stanzas are merely descriptive. In this stanza, we see that the previous are actually describing my own struggle of faith. “I’ve heard there’s time” is a yearning for the eyes of my childhood perspective. However, “the sky draws nigh” indicates that time is not a luxury.

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