Fingers deftly lift – release
brand new playing cards –
they hover at your fingertips
and fall just like a bridge. It connects
this space between you and me.
You deal our cards as you lecture
me on the game’s rules but I only
half-listen. I will learn
as I go. Instead I let my mind
drift to other things. I know
full well you love to answer
my questions. You tend to find
these moments to shift the world –
the other day you lifted a
piece of cardboard from the
trash to show me where
it belongs (in another piece of
cardboard), like a magician showing the
audience a rabbit from out of a hat,
or a queen of some suit they’d seen.
Imagine that, you wittily say at its deposit.
Cardboard belongs with cardboard
(But don’t you know I already know?)
You reveal spaces in our home.
Downstairs, a closet door opens to
game boxes, all tetrised
into a cacophony of color. How
you have labored over this
display, moving and removing boxes
large and small to curate the perfect
design. I smile at my favorite space
each time I slide the door –
a miniscule pocket you’ve organized
for the smallest ones to sit just so. It’s
you in a space, and I am the drawer
upstairs, filled with remnants of broken
chocolate bars, of capless pens – a drawer
of afterthoughts and missed opportunities.
When you maneuver the deck just now, your
wrists move with a crisp flick to let the cards
glide into their piles. Your timing is
a metronome. Those hands labored
over wood for months on end
as you built the table we now play at;
you chose poplar: unwise, you say.
It’s too soft, you now know.
Your mind sees all the grating
strokes of the sander, the spots of
pooled rich stain. Today we sit
on opposite sides of this table
that magically shifted
from your mind six months ago. We test it
out as we play a game about stars – knees
hit the legs too easily, you say. You
can’t help yourself, can’t enjoy
the chance of this creation the
same way you enjoy the chance in
all your games. But I love it like
I love the way you worked your hands
and manipulated a vision
in your head. You tweaked it just so
carefully sanded, again and again until
the wood melted like butter.
Kortney Sebben is a writer and teacher residing in Columbia, Missouri. Her poetry has recently won her Honorable Mention at the School of Literature, Language, and Cultures Conference in 2021, sponsored by the University of Nebraska at Kearney. She has an essay set for publication with UNK’s Graduate Review entitled “Witness, Justice, and the Silent Confessional.” She is currently working on a poetry manuscript.