In the family photo, a father not quite forty,
dressed in faded blue jeans and an even further faded silver softball
sits at a small kitchen table while holding his six-month-old son on his
and playing chess with his six-year-old son, who wears Ninja Turtle
The six-month-old maintains an expression of puzzled curiosity,
apparently fascinated by the ornate figures
being moved so deliberately by his father and brother.
The father grins, looking lovingly, admiringly at his older son
who hasn’t just learned to play chess but has deep-dived into it,
seduced, perhaps, by its promise of control its promise of superiority.
Contentment, too, lines the father’s face
—a fleeting frozen moment of pure parental pleasure.
In this family photo, the six-year-old has a look of dagger-sharp
his focus would appear scary if it weren’t for those Ninja Turtle
He has recently learned beyond how the pieces move
—some straight ahead, some diagonally, some multi-directional.
He now knows something (not a whole lot, of course, but something)
about strategy, about planning moves ahead,
something about anticipating his opponent’s moves.
Such knowledge is bound to beget more knowledge, and more, and so
Such thirst for this kind of knowledge can be a form of lust.
If one were to look closely at this family photo,
one might be able to see more than laser focus in the six-year-old’s
One might see a certain driving hunger,
not just a will to win but a primal-yet-insatiable need.
If one were to possess a crystal ball,
one might see in the six-year-old’s rigid posture,
his confidently aggressive reaching for a chess piece with his right hand,
his tightly pressed lips,
his refusal to acknowledge his father and little brother,
a refusal to forgive, a stubborn (or addictive) insistence
on maintaining a double estrangement that will drag on,
year after year, decade after decade.
is the author of three forthcoming collections: Aficionado (Humming Word Press), Vanity Unfair and Other Poems (Cathexis Northwest Press), and Douglas KOs Tyson (UnCollected Press).
⚡ Seventeen of Rubino’s poems published across seven issues of The Write Launch (2019-2022)
⚡ Hollow Be Thy Name, a poem by Rubino in Issue 12 of KYSO Flash (Summer 2019)
⚡ An Interview With Robert Eugene Rubino at Haunted Waters Press
⚡ Owl House, a poem in Splash! (Haunted Waters Press)