Response to the Gambit
To get a sense of what I was feeling when I wrote this poem, you must picture it, a lovely, sunny December day, the last day of the first semester of my university Design class. We were to have our portfolios ready to hand in that day, so I did. Everyone else was still working on theirs, so there wasn't much to do. Illicit cheap red wine was making the rounds in nondescript styrofoam cups, and I sat and had a leisurely chat with John Chalke (my instructor) and Bill Laing (who was teaching next door, but had wandered over, as his students were also scrambling to get their portfolios ready). We were sitting on high, backless, artroom stools, sipping our wine and squinting at the sun flooding through the window. I made only a few laconic comments, listening to their anecdotes. Gambit was one that John Chalke told. Unlike many North American men, he was always extremely subtle in his speech and understanding, and I understood the story had its own little point.I smiled to myself, sipping and squinting, and this little poem happened in my head. One reader called it "the wallpaper of the mind," and it is partly that. As a matter of fact, the first draft of the poem had the seeds of "Gambit" in it. Someone told me: "you've got two poems there," and indeed I had. I cut "The Conversation" out whole, and later made "Gambit" out of the scraps remaining. What does this poem mean? It moves the narrative of the poem cycle along, and means whatever you wish.
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