Zumwalt Poems Online

Imperfect information

Imperfect information

You and I face off
with battleships on secret squares
sequentially taking pot shots wherever we chose.

A thin board separates our lines of sight
A thick carpet, underneath.

This is a sequential game
even when I attack out of turn
each and every move
is built on the one before.

Round after round
we proudly announce
a target square.

Sometimes we hit
Sometimes we miss
But never fail to attack.

Salvo, my friend
When you are most relaxed
and think all is calm waters.

As long as there are ships afloat
There will be missiles launched
across these now choppy seas.

Salvo, my friend
All shots at once
against our better judgment.

As long as there are missiles to launch
There will be ships targeted
aggravating these now choppy seas.

But once it is clear
there is some chance at sinking even one ship
We pull back,
bend the rules,
re-arrange our positions,
put some ships
in reserve,
deny any cease fire
and secretly fill out our battle reports.

-zumwalt (2011)


Comments on: "Imperfect information" (22)

  1. all i can do is smile when i read this because i enjoyed it so much!! πŸ˜€


  2. Life is a game of strategy!


  3. This is surely an online game? electronic game? I love the tactic of “putting some ships in reserve and re-arranging our positions”. Reconfiguring one’s “groups” is often very helpful, don’t you find, in real life?


  4. I love the connection with life a game of stradegy. It brought back a memory of the song “Love is a Battlefield”. Very well done.


  5. The repetition injected near the end is very effective. What a great metaphor. The human emotions conveyed are deep and potent


  6. πŸ™‚ Congratulations with your award!

    Never fail to attack… That part of this poem will linger in my mind for while.


  7. I really love this poem


  8. dang! we have a game which is called “Schiffe versenken” – > sinking ships and sometimes it seems the “grown ups” playing on and on..and don’t realize it’s real people and real pain and real ships..


  9. Battleships… I know the game, and that this is the way many play real life… The repetition of first lines (Salvo, my friend) or phrases (As long as) in certain stanzas is very effective, as are conflicting interpretations of the use of “Salvo” and especially, with the more common meaning, the juxtaposition of “Salvo” with “my friend.”


    • Ruth,

      Yes, many get caught up in games without knowing it. We all play games — so I guess it comes down to 1) awareness and 2) willingness. πŸ™‚


  10. having grown up on a steady diet of Battleship, I read this poem at least five times…it just has that draw. I appreciate Ruth’s comment too, and especially in relation the the last few lines; yes…keep firing even when you’ve quit, lest any weakness show.


  11. saffronsound,

    Yes, spot on — sometimes cease fires don’t occur early enough — like the myth/part-truth of the Hatfields and the McCoys.


  12. nice..it sounds like battleship…but also like the basis of many a human relationship as well…


  13. I love battleship and used to play it with my kids! I like the way you’ve used it here πŸ™‚


  14. Never let your guard down and attack out of turn. This sounds like marriage pre-divorce and not just a board game, Zum!


  15. It’s soooo romantic!

    I hope my perception is right? Cuz i see tense and intense passion and chemistry! πŸ˜‰


  16. brian, Poetry & Icecream, Monica and A Pakistani Boy,

    Thanks for visting and the comments.

    It’s interesting the angles of intepretation here — I guess just like the boardgame not all information is available so arguments, passion, truces, etc. are probably all valid intepretations.


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