Ace Boggess: “Why I can’t Play Poker”

Why I Can’t Play Poker

Cards feel like collectibles,
each ace the Honus Wagner.

I prefer not to lay them down,
give them up. Weakness 

of character: I love chaos after losing,
one of those rare times 

anger & emptiness overlap 
enough to scorch a desert twice. 

Besides, I think, what if I won?
How could I bear reality?

To surrender failings I embrace 
like a childhood toy? To gain 

but sacrifice my desperation,
doubt? I’d have to be a different me,

neither my goal nor a solution,
more like deodorant sprayed on later.

I’d rather not play a hand again,
except these sailboats in the hole:

how they glide across the table,
how they carry me farther out to sea

About the Author:Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, most recently Escape Envy (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021). His poems have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, Mid-American Review, River Styx, and other journals. An ex-con, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, where he writes and tries to stay out of trouble.


Image Credit: Arthur S. Siegel “Detroit, Michigan. Poker hand and hands of girl players” (1941) Public domain image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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