Scrabble Poem for the New Millennium by G. C. Waldrep

G.C. Waldrep is one of our most acclaimed and accomplished poets; his poems have won awards from the Poetry Society of America and the Academy of American Poets, and have appeared in Harper’s, Poetry, Ploughshares, Seneca Review, among many other venues. He is the author of the volumes Goldbeater’s Skin, Disclamor (not my misspelling, but the actual title), and Archicembalo. His latest work, a brilliant collaborative effort with John Gallaher called Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, is available (as are his other works) on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Father-Train-Ghosts-American-Continuum/dp/1934414484/ref=rec_dp_0 . Waldrep is a professor at Bucknell.

Waldrep wrote Scrabble Poem for the New Millennium on 01/01/2001 after an evening of playing the game with friends at Yaddo, perhaps the most prestigious writer’s colony in the world. The poem first appeared in the literary journal West Branch, which Waldrep now edits. Check it out at http://www.bucknell.edu/WestBranch.xml. (A short story by Roxane Gay, a rated NASPA player, appears in the latest issue.)

Waldrep loves playing Scrabble: “Nobody locally will play Scrabble with me, because I have the word list more or less memorized, AND I challenge frequently.  So I have to wait until I get to Yaddo, where other people horsewhip me.”  He claims that strategy eludes him.

Scrabble Poem for the New Millennium

(after Tranströmer)

We have no arguments over the timing; we are decorous

men and women and we place our tiles carefully on the board

so as to take full advantage of each double-

and triple-word square for words like LEMONY, like ADZ

which may be spelled with or without the final e.

Outside the snow has stopped except for the clumps

that fall from the branches of the hemlocks and white pines

barely moving in the night breeze, a blaze of powder

in the path lamps.  There is an unspoken question between us

and we leave it that way, collectively, rotating the board

when necessary to accommodate our neighbor’s

limitation of perspective.  One has brought a bottle of champagne,

one a tin of homemade fudge.  One has lit the fire,

dry birch logs from another season that catch quickly

and send sparks caroming up the flue.  In the same way

there is a great unsolved love in our lives.

It is all very pleasant.  At midnight an explosion

rocks its way into our bodies so completely the deaf poet,

alone in her room, feels it and turns her face

toward the glass.  Thunder, I say.  No, fireworks

though the hemlocks and white pines block the display.

Getting sleepy now in these last maneuvers, the two-

and three-letter words.  The hour that kept us has passed.

We rinse the glasses in cold water at the sink,

waiting for this moment to acquiesce into others more

or less like it.  The clock ticks unchallenged, a kind of music.

And the evening and the morning were the second day.

            (for Darra Keeton)