The Players

Legacy: The Saga Begins is a 14-chapter narrative poem
that is set to launch on January 21, 2023. This is an
excerpt from Chapter 11 in which Vallenbee the Wise
speaks to the main character, Abelbee.  

The answer disappointed Abelbee,
who hoped to hear about his destiny,
a predetermined story bound by fate,
but not some future that he must create.

In sensing Abelbee’s dissatisfaction,
wise Vallenbee addressed the youth’s reaction:
“Though many benefits amount from preaching,
an illustration is what does the teaching:

“The gift to choose becomes its own reward.
For if we’re just two rooks upon the board,
then winning has no honor-prized esteem
and no real powers granted king or queen.

“If sweeping moves are not by our own choosing,
then who’s the player and the one who’s musing?
Who moves the piece that gives the pawn promotion?
Whose mind and strategy directs the motion?

“The gliding knights, and jumping castles too,
move freely on this board as all can do.
We’re not controlled by anyone’s demand.
We are the players, not a piece in hand.”



Michael Pietrack is a writer, businessman, and former baseball player who resides in Colorado.  

NOTE TO READERS: If you enjoyed this poem or other content, please consider making a donation to the Society of Classical Poets.

The Society of Classical Poets does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or commentary.

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26 Responses

  1. James Sale

    “We are the players, not a piece in hand.” – in one line the crisis of the West where nowadays we have a whole culture seeking to become victims and pawns in the big societal game. Instead, this poem advocates being your own hero – the will is free – a central tenet of Western democracies since the beginning and certainly since St Augustine. Love this extract – very skilfully executed.

      • Patricia Redfern

        Michael! What an outstanding poem and my apologies for a late comment. I hope one day , I will be able to pen such meaningful verse.

        Most sincerely,
        Patricia Redfern

      • Michael Pietrack

        That is very kind. This group has been so helpful to me, and I’m sure that all of our poetry has grown due to osmosis. If you like this poem, you’ll love Legacy, which is coming out in January.

  2. Paul Buchheit

    Thanks, Michael. Freedom of speech and action, of our opinions and religions and bodies.

  3. C.B. Anderson

    You got the chess wrong in the last stanza: Rooks glide, and knights jump — unless your intention was just that: to reverse expectations. And, as if anyone who reads poetry needs to be reminded about free will.

      • C.B. Anderson

        You are welcome, and don’t worry. There are plenty of good things in this poem to hang your hat on.

    • Evan Mantyk

      Dear Kip, I could be wrong on this but I presumed that rooks jump because of the castling move where one jumps one way while the king jumps the other. Also, glide can carry the meaning imperceptibly, as in “glided by unnoticed” which is what a rook seems to do while traveling the board. Lastly, one thing to note is that this poem is categorized as for children with the hope that some of our adult readers will get their kids to experience contemporary classical poetry.

  4. ABB

    An enjoyable snippet, Mr Pietrack. Didactic lessons being a staple of children’s poetry, I thought the extended chess analogy well expressed and, as CB noted above, ends in an unexpected twist with the pieces defying their preordained behaviors. On top of that, your meter is flawless. Hope to see more!

  5. The Mindflayer

    Michael Pietrack is really a master of the extended analogy, as we saw in his other poem Mistress. Like others have noted the reversal of the expected roles of the chess pieces in the final stanza is ingeniously mimetic to the meaning of the extract. I particularly love the final rhyme, which lands with a kind of weight and satisfying power, like a checkmate!

    • Michael Pietrack

      My mind is flayed! Thank you so much for the kind words and reference to Mistress. I am a fan of your work. I can’t believe how quickly you produce. I knit, while you mass produce!

  6. Holly Jacobson

    I really appreciate this particular line:

    Though many benefits amount from preaching,
    an illustration is what does the teaching

    That is the heart of poetry. Show don’t tell. The chess illustration really works here and makes the point, without preaching.

  7. Holly Jacobson

    Impressive, Michael! The way you describe the ordinary becomes extraordinarily memorable. I appreciate your writing talents! Thank you for always being noble!

  8. David Pietrack

    I hear people say “it wasn’t meant-to-be” or the “universe” is directing me to something better or other such things. Ultimately Pietrack is correct, we create our future by our choices. Not a novel concept, but a pleasant delivery from the poet. And as James Sale wrote, we are not pawns moved by some other hand. As Joseph Sale and ABB said, we are not relegated to a certain role or predestined to play a singular part. We have the same “powers” granted everyone else. The more I read this poem, the more I see that each line is pregnant with meaning. Good job, son.

  9. Connie Tibbie

    I’ve had a chance to read Legacy **multiple times** and the whole book is just as polished and perfect. My hope is that this book helps people fall back in love with REAL poetry.

    The part of this poem that makes me think is that if fate governs all, then “winning has no honor-prized esteem”. All accomplishments and failures were pre-ordained. But, by who? For those who believe in fate, who is the player and one deciding all these things?

    • Michael Pietrack

      Thanks Connie…not just for this, but for all your support. I hope Legacy brings people back to formal and rhyming poetry as well. Rhythm and rhyme is our mother’s milk.

  10. Evan Mantyk

    Of course, there is much to be said about fate and forces out of our control like the turning gears of history and the forces of Heaven, but what is striking here is the scene of an older and wiser character imparting the importance of free will to a young man (or bee, as it were). Youth today are adrift in a sea of lies about how racial oppression, economic disparity, and man’s inherent animalistic nature are what determine the course of their lives, justifying their bad behavior and unsuccessful lives. There is a vast dearth of free will in the next generation and hopefully Michael Pietrack’s book can help to remedy that.

    • Michael Pietrack

      I hope you’re right! I appreciate you taking time to consider this poem and the entire book. If it makes all in the SCP proud, my heart would be full.

  11. Margaret Coats

    The chess imagery pushes one to be a player. Good move! I hope you know Ezra Pound’s “Game of Chess,” a fine lyric with a point to it despite the lack of meter. Your meter here, Michael, carries the point even if the young reader might need some explanation about chess. Rhyme and rhythm (our mother’s milk, as you say) nourish the mind to absorb the meaning.

    • Michael Pietrack

      Thank you Margaret. Legacy is a book for parents/grandparents to enjoy with their younger ones. There will be parts the parent enjoy as the reader and parts the children will enjoy. I hope! It’s always a leap of faith, publishing a book.


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