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This poem is taken from PN Review 196, Volume 37 Number 2, November - December 2010.

Three Poems David C. Ward

Aces and Eights

Early mornings, two or three a.m., when my father couldn’t sleep
He’d make his way downstairs and brew a coffee, black and bitter
To sit at the kitchen table with a pack of Luckies and a deck of cards,
Dealing out dummy poker hands, playing them himself against himself.
Five or seven card stud were his games; never draw, a game for kids,
He’d say, not a real man’s game. Calculating odds and chances in his head,
He’d check and raise, hold and fold, spinning cards out in semicircular
Array to put them through their paces. Smoking all the while and sipping
From his cup, he’d impose his pattern on their random fall of meaning.
He’d learned to play, like most of the men of his generation, on football
Roadtrip bus rides and then continued in the War, breaking the monotony
Of hurry up and wait with an endless game of table stakes with cash
That it was bad luck to keep, a smaller gamble of one’s luck against
The biggest cashing out of all. Cutthroat camaraderie that men learn
To relish, the poker games didn’t long survive once middling age,
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