I scratch my head and frown at the board.
I sniff air through my nostrils like a bull.
I place a stone next to the white invader
and the print of my finger glistens wetly.
“That’s why they make the weaker player
play black in handicap games,”
someone once joked. “So you can see them sweat.”
My opponent, who has been running his fingers
through the stones in his bowl, making them
clack, immediately places another stone next to mine.
“That was,” he says slowly, “Not correct.”
I clench my teeth and wonder
how much the sudden flush to my neck and ears shows.
I was given nine stones, a nine-stone head start.
Nine stones scattered over a whole board
as if I owned it all already.
Nine stones, marking each of the star points
a sign that your opponent can give you
because you know how to keep nothing.
I look at the now-cut-off cluster of black stones -
a broken dragon, a clump of bones and flesh
tangled and ugly
and now dead, dead, dead -
and try to judge whether I’m so behind
that the polite thing would be to resign.
But I can’t tell.
So, I decide
and frothless rage,
on this wooden stage.
silent and seen;
The actors unmoving,
yet shine a soft gleam.
The toils will come,
The battles enlarged;
Links will be broken,
And over at last,
Silence will reign;
A small piece of art,
It was not in vain.
Suddenly the game went south
My stones are eaten by tiger’s mouth
But comeback is fated, I know,
because your reading is so slow.
You play so close to thickness,
it has to be some sickness.
Well, I shouldn’t be nagging,
As I’m really sandbagging.
Player: I place this stone, it is the day I choose. It is not Tengen. This stone is my day, the life that is only set in the waiting. You do hear It’s convex wobble. And soon I’ll hear that cold bowl of shadows, wanting life too quickly.
Ghost: Well, so you’ve had all Goban, with choice of stone to play. The one stone you are now watching for, is tomorrows, without squabble or whack, I’d say. The moment is rightful, also it is yours, though’ I’m here to Surround The Year, reading’ ahead of blurs.
Player: It’s warm within these corners. I’m placed there without fear. No Moyo has been gathered, my eyes are reaching clear.
Ghost: Those shadows that you vision, while not noticing a plan, has led you to Joseki, would you like to use my fan?
Player: It all seems so confusing’ all this, over here and over there. The edge seems just for finding. Your winds will push me there?
Ghost: I must admit' You're cleaver, I understand edge, column and row. But listen' my bowl rattles, welcome to my Ko.
Player: This year is almost over. Our own is not so clear, So I will move at Tengen. You see, my Moyo appear?
Ghost: All is all and counted, when blood flowed into the grid. All these stones did gather or died and then be rid. Will be no game that's finished, nor Gobans full thus finer When your Surrounding The Year Alone you always finish re-signer.
The next time that someone asks me what I’m doing, hunched over a plain wooden board, decorated here and there with lines and points and scattered stones
I’ll tell them that I’m dealing with problems of life and death. And I will be.
I encircle, feint, fend off the shadows from the disused corners of my mind.
Some people say that you can tell who a person is by how they play.
I once had a friend who was daring, aggressive, impulsive in his play;
Never a missed invasion, never a held-back play,
So little guile.
His lack of skill (or mine) at the time isn’t relevant, here,
Not now, or ever.
Another friend’s shapes were always thick and strong.
“Solid as concrete, and just as heavy,” I’d tease her,
But her territorial control never missed a beat.
After he left me I cried for hours, then
On and off for days.
He’d only ever been a friend,
But a rather close one. A confidant.
Sipping a sweet ginger tea, I broke down at the board with her,
Then crushed her, after having given her
On the 13 by 13.
A month later, I forgot her birthday.
Still I play,
Obsessively seeking the truth behind things.
Not always, not often is this in go,
But when it is
I try to make sense of the present
By digging through the game of my far-flung past.
Still I honor the long-deposed kings and nobility of a war-torn country
Who I am not sure I accept.