Apr/May 2001  •   Poetry  •   Special Feature

Playing for Keeps

by Amy Crane Johnson

Playing for Keeps

All bets are off during Scrabble;
friendships forgotten,
family given up for dead.
Pregnant air simmers between us.
Will his word placement
help my strategy?
Will she dip
once more into the little
bag, exchange what she
considers nothing
for something
to give her hope?

This game is vicious and we play for keeps.
Still I love the feel
of the smooth scrabbled tiles,
varnished velvet in my hand,
each letter a luscious possibility.
I can almost taste victory.

Intent as they are, I do not think they'll notice
if I gaze out the window
hugging letters in my hand
like a rabbit's foot
or a smuggled sweet.
They will not see me
pop a few tiles
into my mouth
like some crazy
carnival freak.

Is that a 't' or maybe a 'b'? Could that be a 'q'?
Letters tumble and words
arrange themselves against
my teeth.
I open my lips to let off
some steam and an alphabet
rolls from my tongue.
It's my turn.