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Dominoes Again

R.P. Ericksen

        In my youth our presidents
        all played dominoes
        not by the rules,
        where you match numbers
        and place the tiles end to end,
        but in that destructive-child version
        where you set them up
        only to knock them down.

        Fifty-eight thousand Americans
        keeled over, never to rise again,
        as did millions of our enemies
        and friends (so hard to tell apart)
        diminutive, dark-haired pieces in the game,
        who tilted and toppled
        in a long, snaking line
        from Saigon to Hanoi,
        from Hamburger Hill to Hue,
        from Phnom Penh to My Lai,
        though no nations tilted or toppled
        in that famous domino effect,
        which thus proved to be
        simply an odd, presidential whim,
        childish, destructive,

        and now the dominoes
        are meant to topple again,
        our way this time,
        a new version, post-Saddam,
        of an odd, unlikely game,

        in which the small, human pieces
        can be made to fall, and will fall,
        but the larger, analogical,
        geopolitical pieces probably lie outside
        our comprehension or control.

             *    *    *

        The next litmus test
        should be childhood games,
        a would-be president with a broader array,
        checkers or chess or even mahjong,

        a president taught by mother
        to play by the rules,
        shake hands, win or lose,
        taught not to sweep the pieces
        off the board, encouraged not to find
        the greatest satisfaction in toppling blocks
        or making the dominoes fall.

                -- R.P. Ericksen (March 23, 2003)

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Last updated: February 11, 2004