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"Scholar's Mate" by Henry Mills

"Scholar's Mate" by Henry Mills

by Henry Mills

On a concrete patio in Barrio de las flores 

my cousin Chamba and I square off 

over the green white chessboard.

I haven’t seen him since we were three, 

and can’t help but gawk as he rubs

his beard with the stumps of his fingers.

When he was small, a Huey strafed

the walls of his house. Abuela’s options 

were either pray God would skew the hail

or heft her sobrino over her shoulder 

and dash. This four foot five lady 

somehow hoisted Chamba and ran,

the gunner tracing her path with an M-60, 

cobblestone shattering between her toes 

as fragments rived Chamba’s fingers

at the knuckles. I look at my own hands, 

guilty of being whole. Like I should spare 

at least my pinky. How charitable.

As if Chamba needs mending.

Did I mention it’s his fourth move? 

That the lost-in-thought beard rubbing

is all for show? He clutches his queen, 

says, there’s nothing heavier than Metallica

then drops her right in the phalanx 

of my pawns, trained on the piece 

with which no one can part.


Henry Mills was born in Washington D.C. to a Salvadoran mother and a Jewish-American father. Various music and poetry festivals have featured his multi-disciplinary work including Different Kind of Dude Fest, Positive Youth Fest, and Split this Rock. His work has appeared in The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States, Origins Journal, and Border Crossing. He holds an MFA in poetry from New York University.


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