Poetry

Michelle Sagara West wrote up a very nice review of Old Man’s War in Fantasy & Science Fiction magazine this last month (you can find the review here), which includes an apt but somewhat surprising observation of the Whatever. She writes:

I always read “The Whatever,” a blog of longstanding in which Scalzi airs his somewhat direct opinions, some of which clash with mine, and many of which don’t. He has a very down-to-earth sense of humor, an endearing hubris, an adorable daughter, and a way with words that is almost entirely without poetry, and never without both humor and truth.

The phrase which got my attention is “almost entirely without poetry.” I know pretty much what she means — we don’t much cotton to any fru-fru talk ’round these here parts when a direct statement will do — and it is true that I don’t personally write much poetry, or at the very least don’t write much poetry that is of sufficient quality that I feel comfortable inflicting it upon others.

Be that as it may, I don’t want to give the impression that I can’t or won’t appreciate a poetic phrase or two when it comes around. To prove this assertion, and to up the percentage of poetry on the site an infinitesimally small amount, allow me to present the one poem I’ve ever written that’s worthy of public presentation (or re-present it, actually, as I put in on the site many years ago, but took it down in one of the site re-orgs). It combines classical literature and fractals, and really, you can’t beat that.

Yes, there’s a personal story behind it. No, I won’t tell you what it is. A guy should have some secrets.

Penelope

I.

There is no difference between far and near.
Perspective is all
A mountain and a rock that falls from its incline
Are shaped by the same forces
Separated only by scale
And the attentions of the observer.

I keep this in mind as I unravel my work
And tear it down to its component thread.
Today’s design was a masterpiece
Hours of planning and execution
Done in by a casual pull at the end of the day.
It is no matter.
The action is lost in the larger picture of things
Today’s destruction a building block
For a greater work.

Down the hall voices call to me
Insistent suitors demand my presence.
Soon enough I will join them
Some honest enough, others something less
They will ask about the progress of my work
And I will tell them that it remains unfinished.
We will not be talking of the same work
But it is no matter.
There is no difference between far and near.
Perspective is all.

II.

I don’t know whether to blame you or your stupid war.
It is easiest to blame the war
The insistent beating drum
The pretense of noble purpose
Masking a banality so insipid
As to stagger the observer.
But you were always one of the best
Not the strongest, but the smartest
Not forceful, but with a craft
That became its own definition.
You, who upstaged ten years of anguish
With one night and a gift.
You are magnificent
A prize for poets.

It’s hard to understand how one of your talents
Has managed to stay from me for so long.
I imagined your return so soon after your victory
A homecoming which would shine to the heavens
Pure in emotion and joy.
Yet now you are as far away as when you began
Your arrival a distant dream
Your homecoming unfulfilled.
Your war is over
But you are not home
If there is blame
It is yours.

But it is no matter.
It makes no sense to talk of blame
When circumstances rule the day
No sense for anger
When chance plots your course
Whatever mysteries you hide from me
I know your heart.
Your homecoming lives there
Waiting to come true.
It lives in my heart too
Two views of the same moment
Two dreams with the same end.

III.

My suitors engage me in idle banter.
I am sometimes painted as a noble sufferer
enduring unwanted attentions
But in truth, I enjoy the diversions
My suitors entertain me, amuse me
And no few arouse me
Their endless chatter every now and then
Showing promise of something greater
Of depths that dare to be plumbed.

They appear worthy suitors
And indeed some of them are
But there is not one
Who shines so bright as to dim your memory.
The curves of their arms and legs
Call to mind your own sweet body
Their lips and eyes
Bring your own gentle face
Your voice
Calls distantly from their throats.
Every one that comes to me
To cajole, whisper or impress
Becomes a window
Through which I see you.

I smile frequently when I am with my suitors
And they smile back, convinced that the pleasure in my eyes
Is brought by their form.
But it is not them I see.
Perspective is all.

IV.

My work is now unraveled
And my intentions secure for another day.
Tomorrow I will create another
And unravel it, each tomorrow
Until you return to my shore.

It is a difficult task
Building a creation from which
All that is seen is its daily destruction.
It is a work that only I can see
Its completion something only I desire.

It is no matter.
There is no difference between far and near
Perspective is all.
Perhaps from the distance where you are
You can see my larger work.
Use it as your beacon
And have your homecoming at last.

7 thoughts on “Poetry

  1. Poetry in the Whatever?You may have Jumped the Shark here.Perspective is all.Resistance is futile.Wendell is a smart-ass.

  2. Oh freddled gruntbuggly thy micturations are to me
    As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
    Groop I emplore thee, my foonting turlingdromes.
    And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly brindlewurdles,
    Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon, see if I don’t!

    – Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz

  3. Now, now. I’m not anywhere near Vogon level. My poetry causes hardly any frog mutations.

  4. Odyssian metaphorical poetry in the Whatever…truly, the great and chaotic god Internet is a diverse and generous force. Klatu Verata Nickt*cough*!

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