Two free verse poems in the bitter aesthetic

I’m in Portland, OR right now. I came here to try to absorb by some osmotic process the local culture of self-cultivation, people engaging in projects not because the projects are useful or justified, but because they want to. People living out their aesthetic vision for their lives. But when I got here, I found that it is not Rivendell, where lonely Elf-friends can heal their wounds, but the Shire. You can visit and be welcome, but you won’t really be a part of it. It’s not Elfsongs and stories and public feasts, but people living out their private lives in communities. You can visit a person in Portland, but you can’t really visit Portland.

Saruman did not truly hope to destroy the Shire.

As Gandalf was never lost because he was bound to the growing things of the earth,

loved by the joyous hole-dwellers,

as Frodo bore the ring for love of his home and the precious things of the world,

and Sam for love of Frodo,

so Saruman hoped, to be of a place -

that by spending time there, he would grow roots, like an Ent grown tree-ish,

no longer a broken old man with a single abject slave,

but a mage again, with a village to protect,

using the mind-magic of his voice to dispel threats, soothe sorrows, help them be more of who they already wished to be.

But he brought a mind of metal and wheels, which could not grow in the soft Shire soil.

When he looked at an old mill,

he saw an amenity that admits of improvement.

When he looked at the freedom of the Shire-folk,

he saw a system producing below capacity.

So he wrought those gifts he knew how to give:





And the gifts he had received from Sauron and then made his own

were not welcomed.

Here is another one, from several weeks ago, when I was in considerable pain. I wrote it in my heart then, and committed it to paper today. It’s not something my heart would produce now, but it still resonates with my aesthetic in a deep way.

Odysseus too was promised a shield

by the god Hephaestus - Vulcan to us -

for he was crafty and silk-tongued.

As Vulcan turned to his drafting board

to plan a yet greater shield

than that wrought for Achilles, Thetis-asked,

some unknown thief must have entered his fiery mountain home

and stolen his tools:





and the fire itself, the true fire of a god, always burning, never consuming.


Hephaestus kept his word

for he is that sort of a god


so now, bare-handed, he works the bronze

kept liquid by the fire of the lame god’s heart

set afire to honor the promise

that he made with his words.


But metal work with such tools is slow, and full of pains

and the backlog of orders

is accumulating.

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