The Sicilian Defence

This is one of those response pieces I was telling you about. However, this is in response to one I heard on a BBC advert and it’s All the World’s a Stage by William Shakespeare.

All the World’s a Stage is  a poem I first came into contact with when I was around twelve years old and I saw it again a few years ago when Benedict Cumberbatch read it for the BBC.

The title for my piece derives from a famous chess opening and it’s essentially a monologue that analogises life to a chess match. I was inspired to use this after reading Sam Beckett’s Endgame, in which his title is also used as a chess metaphor.


Life’s a game of chess, and
we’re vying for checkmate;
we have our openers, childbirth –
pawn to E4. Rook, bishop
knight, queen and in our fight, we
play parts. Babies shook and carried
by teams of sweaty fingers

wailing like sirens– luring victims to
their deaths. Pinned. Young children
– innocent, and naïve in their youth,
creeping like crabs. Pawn to C5,
and then they fall in love, opening
Pandora’s Box, a violent can of worms.

Heart squirms once in a term
of years. False promises – a bed of
thorns, a bed of lies, bloodshot eyes.
Abrupt, fast to fight assertive sighs.
Knight to G3. Forty years old and in
crisis – wife, kids, a dog and arthritis.

Wind the crank. Cut the hedges.
Trim the fat. And we play our parts.
Pawn to D6. The match is afoot,
the board is set – sixteen apiece.
Now into the next wave: pot-bellied,
double-glazed lenses, crimson teeth.

Our finite time, spent – full circle, round
it goes, voices talking from yesterday’s
childishness. Check! Jaded – Exhausted.
Tired – Fatigued – Alone – Desolate.
Deserted – Dead, and that’s mate.

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