—James Scruton

The flutter and blur of shuffled cards,
their soft fall on a table, deals me back
to playing cribbage with my grandmother,
her antique board between us,
as many years, it seemed, from me to her
as there were holes for the pegs
where we kept score.

Each dealt hand felt like a gift, a new day
to arrange and play out to its end,
counting pairs and ways to reach fifteen,
flushes and runs and double-runs.

She taught me how to save a hand
by letting something go,
how keeping what was good
meant giving up the chance at better.

Evenings, I’d wait for her to say
the rosary, pale fingers counting beads
before we’d start to play, our pegged selves
ticking points on that board,
picking our way along the pinprick track.

(This poem is from the chapbook The Rules, forthcoming from Green Linden Press.)

James Scruton

James Scruton is the author, most recently, of the chapbook Blind Season (Orchard Street Press). He is the recipient of many awards, including the Frederick Bock Prize from Poetry magazine, and his poems and reviews appear regularly in journals throughout the U.S. He is currently Professor of English and Associate Academic Dean at Bethel University in McKenzie, Tennessee.

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