I’m startled to awake—at my gray age,
and listless from the labors of my years—
unsettled by a dream, in youthful tears
for an old love, the one who slipped away,
while she who sleeps beside me holds me here
in solace of the history we share.
Sleep deeply, Eve. I’ll marvel while I may
the grip of ardent passion I had feared
forgotten. And imagine (if I dare),
that somewhere, Lilith also lies awake.
I had thought this sonnet lost! But I found it yesterday, while sorting through some old boxes of games and memorabilia, and I don’t think I’ve shared it publicly before.
I wrote it for Gary Gygax after having worked with him on the Dangerous Journeys role-playing game. Like countless hobby gamers, I was introduced to role-playing through Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, in my case the first edition.
While many people were involved in publishing AD&D, I think it’s safe to credit Gary as not just the author, but also the man who gave it flight. This was my way of saying thanks.
While just a child, I learned a magic spell
that let me gaze out through another’s eyes,
and in that manner walked beneath the skies
of worlds where heroes, maids, and monsters dwell.
I shared poor Crusoe’s fearful joy to tell
a print in sand. I marvelled at the size
of Gulliver in far-off ports. The cries
of Barsoom’s lord, as back to earth he fell,
I felt, and with him mourned the story’s end.
And then, as Samwise sailed into the West,
left me behind, I met a marvelous mage
whose grimoire taught a wondrous spell, to send
my mind in guises of its own to quest
in endless worlds—and never a last page.
“And now the air took on a barnyard odor;
our raft passed through a realm peopled by scarabs
with human faces—whites, blacks, Asians, Arabs—
each one rolling his own ball of ordure.
“Tiresias told me, ‘These are souls of bankers,
drug lords, pimps, arms dealers, and their ilk,
who for the love of diamonds, gold, and silk,
poorly spent their lives. Each one hankered
to own the most, as if life were a game
that they could win. Their punishment seems fit.’
“I watched them play, each shouting, ‘I’m the shit!’
Many had been souls of worldly fame;
now each trumpeted a crappy ball.
Though I’ll confess, one guy Trumped them all.”