X O X O X

I paid good money
to play Tic Tac Toe
with a caged chicken.

I dropped my coin in the slot
and marked my X.
The chicken picked its O.
X O X O X—a draw; I tried again.
X O X O X O X—again a draw;
I dropped another coin.

Outside, flies swarmed and killdeers fed.
Light faded and night shadows took hold.
Days passed endlessly to evening.
Mountains rose and fell.
And soon enough, the killdeers fed the flies.

Inside, X O X O X the struggle went.
And far too slow, I came to understand
that I could never beat this bird.
Like death, it never chose in error.
Stalemate was the best I ever could achieve.

And then it came to me:
I had already lost!

Because I paid good money
to play Tic Tac Toe
with a caged chicken.
 
 
(Originally appeared in Wisconsin People and Ideas)

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