When the fire department came to the door to deliver the news, my mom locked herself in the bathroom, pulled out 409 cleaner and a rag from the bathroom cabinet and started scrubbing the sink. She moved her arm back and forth, like a rower. The paramedics—his colleagues—knocked on the front door, saying Lisa, we’ve got to talk to you. She kept scrubbing, making circles with the rag on the cabinet, the counter, the mirror.

Final Sequence



My dad taught me to play

chess at five. Our hands


would touch when we’d play,

brush each other over


our wooden board. In chess,

a quiet move is not forcing.


No check, no direct

attack of an enemy piece.


The threat is impending,

patient, the ensuing


wreckage prepared for.

After the helicopter crashed


it wasn’t clear to my mom

that he had died in the grass.


Which hospital are they taking

him to? she asked the fire captain


over the phone. We kids

played in the other room.


In a 1911 game, GM Alekhine

slid his knight to e5,


the end to come, in the quiet,

a move or two away.

Nicholas Reiner is an American poet of Mexican heritage. His work appears in Spillway, Aquifer, Fourteen Hills, Connotation Press, and Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review. He holds degrees from Stanford University and the University of California, Irvine, where he completed an MFA. He is Director of Communications at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC) and lives in Los Angeles, CA with his wife and daughter.