The Older Brothers Guide to Cheating at Monopoly
The year of the divorce, all springflood & tornado warning,
Cahaba River swollen beyond reason or containment,
Happy Hollow Road washed out & we were trapped:
ten days of our parents barely able to look at each other.
Chores & games all we hadonce the animals were fed
we rolled dice, dealt cards, kept score in too-convenient metaphors:
Life, Careers, Clue, Battleship, Risk. But looking back I find
little narrative, less rhyme scheme
as the lyricism of my parents love story unraveled,
my brother & I too young to see beyond our own skin,
our hunger for predictability. We didnt have TV until a year later
in our fathers apartment so we werent yet in the thrall
of The A-Team, Knight Rider, CHiPsevery episode
beginning with an implausible car wreck, vehicles in a pile
with no one injured who couldnt be pulled free by Ponch or Jon.
Our heroes still lived on baseball cards, everything we needed
to know about their life stories in neat columns of numbers on the back.
It all comes together so obviously, doesnt it? I am older now
than my parents then, with kids of my own who ask only
for every instant of my attentionnot one thing more
so I sense the sacrifice they made when at last
we talked them into joining us for Monopoly.
We bought, sold, bartered, mortgaged, developed, took second prize
in beauty contest after beauty contest. We passed Go,
collected our due, went directly to jail, took rides on the Reading
in this game that refused to end, not even
when the rain stopped & they fixed the road.
My parents had enough, but we would not quit.
Eventually they divided their properties between us,
returned to the dismantling of their marriage,
but my brother & I were committed to see it through.
Id like to tell you how it ended, to persuade you
that the way things turned out meant something about capitalism,
about the nature of human affairsbut I dont recall. Im sure I won,
appointing myself banker & stacking the deck in my favor,
for which I should now apologize, but to whom? For what?
What I do know: That summer it hardly rained at all. In those dusty deadgrass months
we escaped our house gone silent, built a fort in the woods behind the house
dug a hole ten feet square, four feet deep, covered it with pine boughs,
told no one of its existence. We were working against a deadline,
a season that had stretched endlessly in front of us already
growing shorter by the day & so much to learn about architecture.
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