The Apprentice

Lance Larsen

In the heat of chance, in the cold sweetness of rules,
my son slaps out rhythm. Rock Paper Scissors.
Does the hand quicken the mind?  He is a mystic,

a prisoner gambling for bread. His rock crushes 
my scissors. My scissors cut his paper. He shrugs
off each win, but losing, offers up his hand

for punishment, a Calcutta leper caught thieving.
Who taught him to favor penalty?  When does play
equal fear?  Again, he says, then slaps his leg.

I choose paper. He chooses—no, he lifts his hands, 
as if channeling electricity, fingers writhing,
fingers kissing the space between his eyes and mine.

Fire, he says with five dirty flames at the end 
of each wrist. What is a father?  At what temperature 
do rules melt?  Even the rain at the window burns.