Seascape with moon, ship, and clouds

Wandering among many rooms from
one to another as a wraith would,
dragging bare toes catch on carpet,
stumble and stop before
windows’ round wide eyes looking West,
standing before them unseeing,
blinded by dark veil...cloud... mist…

Black breath returning, showing things
far off in time and place.
Clutching a white stone that hangs
on fine links of silver evermore
around his neck.
A neck still bowed from another chain.
Inhaling coming thin and weak.

“Master, are you all right?”
Bright thread beams into dark sight.
Sighing, “No, my dear, I can never be all right.
"I must go soon.”
“I’ll not leave you,” kissing the four-fingered hand.
Eyes seeing now, gently looking
down on the curly hair bent over him.

A girl-child rushes in giggling.
The little one the master named
for a golden flower
in the green grass
of a far land.

She flies up
in the tender grasp of her
father’s garden-roughened hands.
Dirt under the nails, but clean.
Westering sun crowns her golden hair
and an aura bathes
the three, held in close embrace,
faces suffused with smiles.

Fully breathing in, filling up
for an easy outbreath of laughter.
All right.
For today, for this week,
a month, but next year …
Too many returns have come that
touch the wounding days.
And soon deliverance comes.

“It’s our birthday tomorrow.”
“So it is. I had forgotten, as it’s
this little one's birthday soon.”
And because her mother smiled today
with news of another birthday coming.

Because he’s looking toward the mallorn
that has made a thousand silver nuts this year,
falling where birthday party revelers sat astonished
under the massive branches of the old chestnut.

The icon chestnut cut down and left to lie
dying in the destruction of this row of humble homes.
Homes made new now, snug inside
with salvage from rude brick buildings pulled down,
their sandy gardens bright now in low sunlight
on red, yellow, orange, white blooms of
chrysanthemums, nasturtians, asters,
late morning glories,
and in the grass, evermind.

“Those dahlias will want tying up,” the gardener says.
He does not see the slow smile on his master’s face
that curves closed lips but does not reach the eyes.
A bemused smile, thankful seeing gladness
he can no longer feel.

He must soon ask the boon once promised.
Leaving this forever,
but asking for only a little jaunt now from
the dear companion he still needs
in the far off end of things
together again,
not forever without his own kind.

In a pale dawn two rings flash white and blue
as hands lift in greeting and in welcome.
Lifting hearts with a remnant of hope
that never died
and now all doubt is dying.

But parting tears the minds of these riders,
will forever tear.
Because no place for them here,
where their hearts would stay.
They do not look too long
in the wells of the eyes of the little master.

Old uncle rides the current
of the dewy morning,
cheerful in forgetfulness,
drowsy in noon warmth,
lulled by pony’s rocking clopping,
bringing others' sweet smiles to lips only.

Guardian of the quay,
seafarer, keen-eyed, tall, lordly, remote, grey, old,
honoring a new king.
All is ready.
Little master blanches, quails.
Digs for his resolve.
This is necessary.
Seafarer understands without saying.
He cannot in good faith welcome.
He will not turn him away.

Ring glowing red in a red sunset
on the hand of the old grey pilgrim,
he alone not bowed with grievous leaving.
His life’s work resolved beyond all expectations.
If a tiny nagging scent
of evil lurks, that is
the way of the world and beyond his powers.
Powers now diminished.
Gratefully so. His face lined, his heart free.

The apple-cheeked merry warriors
gallop up, shouting, remonstrating in mock scorn.
Master’s laugh echoes on the grey stones.
“I have no doubt we see the meeting of old friends.”
Meeting. Parting.

Talk runs to the dissolution of the nine walkers.
But that can never be complete.

Though a broken horn
rests silent among the dead,
fellowship lives:

lives while a gardener tends home lands
from which depart small-grown-great warriors,
singing and laughing, riding through
tall grasses to the white citadel,

lives while a dwarf forges mithril and steel
for the gates to the white tree,
then rests and smokes a long pipe with Long-legs,

lives while an elf refrains from setting sail
before the king should die,

lives while pilgrim and master reside
together across the sea.

If in that far green country of white shores, swift sunrise,
if there the little master goes on writing, what could he tell?
We know only our hopes:

Heart-expanding splendour.
Head-cracking wonders.
Breath-stopping beauty.

Making of things undreamed of.
Unmaking of things unneeded.
Rest after a completed task.

Falling away of worn raiment, finding beneath
clothing of light.
Draining away of weariness.
Emptiness abiding beyond any need for filling.
All is fulfilled.


Do some of these references seem obscure? That’s intentional. If it’s been awhile since you read LOTR, by all means pull it off the shelf and re-indulge yourself. But here’s a shortcut: This is mostly from the last chapter.

My last reading was in 2020, and for some reason (that you may be able to discern, beloved reader), I became especially tender toward this pair, Sam and Frodo.

Think: sacrifice. Or think what you want. That’s why it’s obscure.

Illustration courtesy Cleveland Museum of Art. Detail from "Point Judith, Rhode Island." 1867-68. Martin Johnson Heade. American (1819-1904). Mr. and Mrs. William H. Marlatt Fund and Gift of Delbert Gutridge in memory of Orrel A. Parker by exchange.