Thursday, March 10, 2005

The Love Song of J Random Wargamer

Hey, chabibi!
Al tapilu bira al hamischak sheli.
Kaniti oto ba-chutz la-aretz,
V'hu oleh li yoter may
Ha-auto shelcha, ata shomeya?

LET us play then, you and I,
While the game board is spread out against the table
Like discarded candy wrappers in half-deserted streets;
Let us read through certain dog-eared sheets,
The muttering ramblings
Of restless rule-writers, drunk on Coke in late-night cubicles
And restaurants with half-eaten taco shells:
Lines that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What the hell does that rule mean?”
Let's just play.

In the room Eurogamers come and go
Talking of Puerto Rico.

The yellow oil that runs upon the take-out food,
The yellow oil that pools like molten gold from the chili dogs
Licked its tongue into the corners of the saturated fries,
Lingered in pools that stand in paper bags,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from overcooked burgers,
Slipped by the greasy hands, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was my most expensive game,
Dripped once upon the board, and ruined it's resale value.

And indeed there will be time
For the inscrutable rules upon the many sheets,
In writing as soft and faint as your grip upon reality;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a strategy to meet the strategies that you meet;
There will be time to attack Normandy and retreat,
And time for all the plays and days of hands
That lift and drop a unit on your map;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before your opponent gives up in disgust and walks away.

In the room Eurogamers come and go
Talking of Puerto Rico.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I attack?” and, “Do I attack?”
Time to turn back and hold position,
With a weak spot in the middle of my front line—
[They will say: “How his vanguard is growing thin!”]
My basic units, my mercenaries for hire,
My coffers overstreched, supply lines under fire—
[They will say: “But how his reinforcements are thin!”]
Do I dare
Disturb the stalemate?
In a minute there is time
For invasions and incursions which a skirmish will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known Avalon Hill, Eagle, and GDW,
I have measured out my life with chits and counters;
I have known the units dying with a dying fall
Beneath the fire from an overwhelming force.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the games already, known them all—
The games that fix you with a formulated play,
And when I am formulated, rolling on a whim,
When I am rolling ones for me, and sixes for him,
Then how should I begin
To give up all these games of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the armies already, known them all—
Armies Egyptian, Blue and Gray,
[But in the basement light, gray and grayer still!]
Is it uniforms from a certain period
That makes me so obsessed?
Model paints that lie along a table, or stuck to a newspaper.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?
. . . . .
Shall I say, I'll go home at dusk through narrow streets
Eat a balanced meal, and get some decent sleep?
Instead of watching dawn creep up, out of windows?…

I should have bought a twenty-two foot yacht
Sailing emerald waves of sunlit seas.
. . . . .
And in the afternoon, the evening, sleep so peacefully!
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … but it malingers,
Stretched on the table, here beside you and me.
Should I, after beer and cake and chips,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
But though I have won and wept, won and resigned,
Though I have had my head [grown slightly bald] handed to me upon a platter,
I am no Eurogamer—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the game club owner hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the soda, the Cheetoes, the coffee,
Among the styrafoam, among some kibbitzing about victory,
Would it have been worth while,
To have folded up the game with a smile,
To have stuffed all those chits into a ball
To roll it toward some overflowing dumpster,
To say: “I am Teuber and Knizia, come from Deutchland,
Come to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—
If one, settling a game box by his head,
Should say: “That is not what I play at all.
That is not it, at all.”

And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,
After the counters and the model paints and the crinkled sheets,
After the rule books, after the polyhedral dice, after the pizza boxes trailing on the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic fireball threw some damage in patterns on my army:
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a game box or throwing out a die,
And turning toward the window, should say:
“That is not it at all,
That is not what I play, at all.”
. . . . .
No! I am not Milo Bloom, nor was meant to be;
Am a Binkley, and that will do
To cut a deck of cards, start a hand or two,
Annoy my friends; no doubt, an easy play,
Referential, glad to be in a game,
Fanatic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of rule knowledge, but a bit obese;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.

I grow old … I grow old …
I shall wear the bottoms of my blue jeans rolled.

Shall I buy from overseas? Can I get this at the mall?
I shall wear dark flannel shirts, and walk the college hall.
I have heard the yacht girls singing, each to each.

I do not think that they will sing to me.

I have seen them riding waves in their ships
Combing their hair on the sunlit seas
When the wind blows the water white and black.

We have lingered in the basements of the cons
By hexboards detailed red and green
Till sleep has overcome us, and we dream.

(apologies to T. S. Eliot. From "The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock".)


Anonymous said...

This is awesome!

Yehuda Berlinger said...

Thank you, Anon.