The Card Players
A ledger kept in a drawer too long, it all begins to unravel between Pierre and Claude
with discreet card games, unpaid promises, deals, and unsettled scores.
Winter hangs over the poker table as Claude, a big man with a bigger debt
arrives dressed in a tan overcoat and new black top hat,
sits down on a wooden chair, back to the wall.
Across the table, Paul and Charles lean in to their cards.
When Paul ups the ante, Claude’s grin seems almost jovial.
Indeed, his cheeks display a healthy shade of blush as he contemplates his cards,
shuffles slightly in his chair, then arranges them by suit.
But though he holds his cards steady, Claude’s hands feel cold and damp.
Paul, on Claude’s right, wears an ordinary brown coat and hat.
A former friend of Claude’s perhaps; now Claude owes him money.
Like a frayed wire ready to short, Paul displays brusque ways.
A lively man, Paul, though today, his sober grin might mislead you.
Charles plays on Claude’s left, aloof.
Dressed in an over-sized blue coat, and a possible acquaintance of Paul,
Charles lays his pipe down on the card table, focuses on his hand.
Drawn in by high stakes, the three forget Pierre until they hear him shuffle.
Accustomed to his own way, Pierre, a shrewd man with a pointy chin,
wears an orange scarf, black coat, and brown hat.
A white pipe pursed between the lips of his poker face, and arms folded,
Pierre seems removed though he looks on, as he calculates the odds.
To witness the luck of the draw, Pierre waits transfixed against the cold, grey wall,
perched over Claude’s hunched shoulders, as the four count on the night to play itself out.
Pierre plants himself against Claude’s wishes, in the perfect spot to peer
at Claude’s hand, as they hedge their bets.
Pierre wants his money, he tastes it, as he watches Claude’s cards.
If Claude takes all, Pierre wins the jackpot.
Though silent, through his presence in the room, Pierre asserts control.
Pierre designs to take Claude’s life, should he lose again tonight.
As Claude plays his last game, Cezanne enters the room, unobserved.
Since he shows up too late to draw cards, Cezanne paints the scene instead.
Michele Harvey’s poems have appeared in several literary publications including: Vine Leaves Literary Journal, Progenitor, Copper Nickel and The Litchfield Review. Her sonnet, “Dinosaur Ridge,” is the focal point for a permanent art in public places display at the Jefferson County Government Center railway station in Golden, Colorado. Michele Harvey is the author of Poetry for Living an Inspired Life.
The Ekphrastic Review
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