the hetman and the thief

the crook of the universe is revealed
in the dice game between the hetman
and the thief

throw for your life thief
the one-eyed general said while
shining his cutlass

the thief smiled
you will not vanquish my people
with your form of brute justice
taborite scum

outside the tent the cossacks clamored
dancing round the fire
and hollering hussite songs
in victory over the forces of Sigismund

throw for your life rogue the general repeated
my lieutenants report you tried
to steal the calix
a dear treasure which requires a dear payment

should you catch a two or higher
your hands we lop off
now throw

the thief took up the dice cup
rolled it dreadfully between his hands
as if to start a fire of luck

finally he threw
as the die flung spinning through the air
the possibilities hovered like motes of stardust
the thief might keep his hands
but the table of chances slid hard
against it

caught between stochastic and kismet
the general and the thief stared
into each other’s eyes
for the moment of reckoning

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