Hand throwing dice over snakes and ladders board
The game begins with the roll of the dice,
Wind up and let it flow with ease,
There is no trepidation in this game.
And you’re off!
Four, five, six squares ahead.
They tell you it’s no bigge.
“Everyone gets a good start!” they laugh.
And you hold back from spitting back,
Cause you know you’re special.
You’re going to be beat the game.

Next turn, same wind-up, same throw,
Same landing, moving forward.
You wince as you’ve just missed a ladder.
Oh well, you’re still beating everyone else.
And you get a card.
“Congratulations on matriculating through primary,
Now on to secondary!”

And here the game begins.
You thought you were in the game before,
But you were barely on the board,
Living on the edge of known seeing,
Believing, only what you’ve been told.
Mum says – “GCSEs, then A-Level, then University.”
And Dad says the same.
Words are much easier to believe when the world is seen though smaller eyes.

You can take your roll now, knowing what you know.
You live in a land of giants, and you’re yet four foot tall.
A dwarf amongst toddlers, dwarfing them for but a moment.
But it’s ok, you still think you’re special.
And you remember the dice have fallen well so far.
Only now you see you’re in a different room.
A dozen or more games are being played around you.
A dozen or more other winners. 
And their doing better than you.
You realise the game has changed, it’s not one board it’s a thousand.
It’s not one winner, it’s the best winners.
You roll a little more uneasily.

You’re still ahead and climbing,
But you’ve picked up cards that give you less than satisfaction.
“Social anxiety, move back three steps.”
“Obesity, move back two steps.”
“Average IQ, stay where you are.”
How are these cards fair?
You didn’t ask to draw them.
No one said you were stupid.
You’re lean, not obese!
It’s not anxiety, it’s fear of judgment,
You’ve been living in a little world,
And now all these strangers can see you.
Their eyes are like daggers,
Each glance of judgement cutting deeper than the skin.

You want to quit but you keep playing.
People who quit don’t get to be back in the game.
And the game is all there is. 
And you know have it better than most.
You started off ahead – two parents, good jobs,
Both white, well read. 
But what’s that coming up ahead?
Oh no, it’s puberty!

And now every turn is met with greater dread,
You lose your focus. 
You’re in love with every girl.
Ashamed of every boy.
“Bisexuality – confusion, skip a turn.”
At last, you get a good hand.
“Gaming – take a breather.”
You let off a little sigh of relief,
And a console in placed in front of you,
And a screen in booted up.
For a moment you’re not in the game,
You’re playing a game.
And this game is fun.

You’re not sure how long you’re distracted,
You’re not sure how long you looked away for.
But by the time you realise it’s too late.
The toddlers became dwarfs, and the dwarfs became men,
And now you hold nothing over them.

The game doesn’t end. It’s still going,
Over and over again,
You throw – with a little more caution.
You move forward – with a little more fear.
For the hours of judgement are nearly here.
All the ladders have turned around,
The only way they lead now is down.
Along comes the final call.
“Skip to the end now, and from the game,
You’ll be withdrawn.”

To some this offer tastes good, 
But you know there’s a bitter bite in the center of this early exit.
Skip to the end and you miss the journey.
The hardship of now is over but now you’re fighting every day to play.
The game ceases to be free at the end, and everyone must pay their due.
But you don’t know that yet,
You’re making choices you won’t see the outcome to for years.

So, you endeavour to play, endeavour to win.
Put everyone else aside,
Focus.
But…that console is still there…
And it’s still inviting.
You can do both…right?
You try, and it seems to work.
You’re not the best, but you’re having fun.
You’re not leading the pack,
And not at the back either.
You put in just enough, and nothing else.
Mediocrity shall be your name,
And now you know you’re not stupid,
You’re just privileged.
And lazy.

The hour of judgement comes and goes,
And leaves behind spectres of those that remain,
To be tried once more until their requirement is met –
“Satisfy my demand!”
A moronic request, for all they ask is to do your best.
Do you care for those behind?
Perhaps a little, but ahead you look
And now you feel like you did once before,
All those years ago when the game was nothing,
When it was still just a game and not the game of life.
You have your qualifications,
And now you move ahead,
Into the games last twisted avenue – University!

And know what?
It’s all too easy!
It’s a party, it’s a dance,
Its half-attempted essays and nights lost in drink,
And drunken hands throw the dice carelessly,
While parents look despairingly,
“Focus on the work, you need to achieve.”
So that what’s you do, you achieve –
Alcoholism, and a real big tummy.
Debts, but they don’t matter,
It’s the government paying for my leisure. 

You’re so close now, you can see the end in sight.
And you have worked hard. 
You stayed on when others fell off.
You put in the work. 
You had fun.
Now it’s time,
A little bow in a funny hat and you’ll go and out and be the greatest writer that’s ever been!
You’ll write such sonnets that the stars themselves will weep,
Tell such stories that when the end of all things come.
It’s your words they’ll whisper for comfort in the dark.

You roll that last hand, 
And it’s the end of the game.
It’s the end of knowing.
It’s the end of youth and hope.
Because now you’re out of that little maze.
And you feel as foolish as though that skip to the end.

Because what’s this you see?
Poverty, racism, misogyny,
Figureheads, leading crowds to the nations edge,
Blaming sightless lands and far off overlords for their own failures?
No, no this isn’t right.
And where are all the opportunities?
Where’s the dice?
Where’s the manifest destiny?

You don’t have the dice anymore.
That’s in other hands now.
Now you ask that they roll for you. 
They deplore you. 
“Conform or be renounced.” they say.
Pay your taxes to feed the rich,
Consume, consume, consume,
Your life is meaningless without something new every day.
All those opportunities didn’t go away.
They just weren’t meant for you.

And what do mum and dad have to say,
“Get a job, it will surely pay.”
A job? Ok, that I can do.
But there’s nothing out here I know.
I am a storyteller, not part of the story.
Maybe this was a mistake, I want to go back,
Change my choices,
New vocations,
Learn new things,
Open more doors.
But the doors you want to walk through
Their locked off. 
“Maybe in a few more years, maybe a bit experience.”
“I’m sorry, but you just not what we’re looking for right now.”
“I’m afraid someone more experienced has come along.”
“You simply lack what we know you don’t have, and that doesn’t work for us.”
The doors that are open have been open all along.
Open since early exist. 

Is this the game still playing?
Do I start at the bottom and work to the top?
Does that even work if you weren’t born there to begin with?
My early hands of fortune feel so pointless now.
This is not a game. This is a nightmare.
And it will go on until the world ends. 

Thank you for reading my short poem, I hope that you enjoyed it!

Please leave any thoughts down in the comments,

sincerely,

Harvey John


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