In their grave corner, the players
Deploy the slow pieces. And the chessboard
Detains them until dawn in its severe
Compass in which two colors hate each other.
Within it the shapes give off a magic
Strength: Homeric tower, and nimble
Horse, a fighting queen, a backward king,
A bishop on the bias, and aggressive pawns.
When the players have departed, and
When time has consumed them utterly,
The ritual will not have ended.
That war first flamed out in the east
Whose amphitheatre is now the world.
And like the other, this game is infinite.
Slight king, oblique bishop, and a queen
Blood-lusting; upright tower, crafty pawn —
Over the black and white of their path
They foray and deliver armed battle.
They do not know it is the artful hand
Of the player that rules their fate,
They do not know that an adamant rigor
Subdues their free will and their span.
But the player likewise is a prisoner
(The maxim is Omar’s) on another board
Of dead-black nights and of white days.
God moves the player and he, the piece.
What god behind God originates the scheme
Of dust and time and dream and agony?
[From Dreamtigers, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Harold Morland]