All three leaves of the dining room table
have elongated the surface into playable—
if felt-less—space, and ten of us crowd
around it for poker, chipped up, happy and loud
until the rare tense showdown shuts us up
so well we can hear the healthy neighbors
plodding the gravel road beyond the trees.
Harder to bluff here, among those
who taught me to play, and one or two
I taught. Easier at the casino to be mystery enough
to fool a few strangers. But here, we recognize
each other's most-loved moves, the rhythm
of each round, the pace across the long hours
as the minimums rise, and the stakes,
low as they are.
A few of us friends long enough now
that we've seen one another both brilliant
and broken, will see more yet along a continuum
that I’m not ready to name the rest of our lives.
I split a pot with someone who's seen me
weep; knock close-quartered elbows with others
whose secrets I've stowed carefully:
pocket aces I'll never play.