was born in San Francisco and graduated from Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. He is a government lawyer who lives in Washington, D.C.
He has published a translation of Selected Letters of Alexis de Tocqueville (University of California Press) and has published poems in The Classical Outlook, among other journals.
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A Defense of Solitaire
I know, I play it over and over,
like a Greek at worry beads,
basting my mind in emptiness.
But study the game’s politics:
how emptiness can be filled only
by either the highest or the lowest,
and yet how from each, for the game
to be won, factions must spring forth,
descending from the top or building
from the bottom. It lets you win
just enough to keep you wanting
to play, as though you could discover
the perfect mean between success
that, coming too soon, leaves you too
few ways to win, and that key chance
that, missed, assures that you will fail.
The game would be ideal for gambling
if it admitted someone for you
to play against. It proves the virtue
of diversity. You do not
want to deal a start with too much
the same—too many queens or tens
or too many cards one color.
Come stuck, a player has to try
to see if switches can be made
between what comes down from the kings
and what ascends from aces. It is
this second sighting of the play
that gives the game its metaphysics.
It hints that if mere human minds
can so outstretch themselves, solving
dilemmas that stop thought by looking
at them again from a new level
where they are transformed, surely
some monarch over all, a One
who has unfolded worlds from nothing,
plays from some final level all
we do. He would play solitaire,
winning sometimes, losing sometimes.
Our freedom would to him be mishap.
He’d be forever fascinated.