The only vulgarity I ever heard my father mumble was Perun,
The one-time Polish god of thunder,
Who was now a quisling for the devil.
And it was only when he was teaching my brothers and me
The rudiments of pinochle, his favorite game.
My two brothers quickly got the hang of it,
But my mind wobbled in different ways.
I would think of the devil and how in the movie DAMN YANKEES
A man sells his soul so that his team would win the World Series.
And I thought of how right a ball always felt in my hand,
Certainly much more naturally than these cards,
But not, as I imagined, the breast of the dark girl who sat in front of me in religion class.
And I thought that if I could just touch those breasts
I would gladly trade my already lost soul for the Phillies to win the pennant.
And so I disappointed my father,
Who always knew what cards my brothers and I had.
He would remember who laid out which cards for meld at the start of the hand,
Then count each card played and by who,
So that, at the end, he knew which cards each of us held.
Stupidly, I thought he could see the reflection of my cards in my glasses,
So I lowered my head.
At the end of the hand, I would raise it,
As he counted our points.
“Perun,” he would say when he was done.
“We didn’t make our bid
“Because you held onto your queen of spades too long.
“Don’t ever play this game for money.”
©2012 This work is the property of the author.