My bitter foe,
belligerent no more,
and I enjoy the same descending sun.
She sits atop a tiny leaf
beneath my childhood swing,
while I pace back and forth
along the wooden wall,
sparing momentary glances
at my new, unlikely friend.

Perhaps she, too, remembers
when each forest was a jungle
filled with beasts from long ago.

The naked dirt repopulates with shrubs and ferns,
no more disturbed by shoes
and predatory claws;
somehow the woods are thinner,
less delightful,
and they beckon much more quietly;

but every blue-skied evening,
sunlight paints the leaves
the colour that stirs up in me
the joy of when the world was fresh,
and young.

Into the flames, you lowly saint;
you know their end,
        and you know yours.

Your end will purge the hated taint;
from ash to phoenix,
        live once more!

Gentle waves along the shore,
as sunlight warms you, pained no more.
Shire grass you knew again,
but home was not as warm as when
we two set out so long ago.

I love the Shire, and married another,
but even joys were shadowed by
the hurt I knew to haunt my brother —
you — and greyed your once-blue eyes.

I guess you’ll never see these words I wrote,
since you’re off westward in that boat,
but, still, I much want you to know:
good Frodo, sir, I miss you so.

-Sam

        Dave stopped talking as Douglas slumped back into his chair: hopeless; despondent. “This is the Benson and Benson Company.”
        “Yes.”
        Douglas sighed heavily. “You’re going to ask me to do work, aren’t you?”
        Dave smiled, and produced another bottle of brandy. “Only a little bit.”
        Douglas wasn’t comforted, but took the bottle. His mind was filled with wistful images of all the welfare checks he wouldn’t be able to collect anymore, tainted by apparitions of the bathtubs he would have to upholster. He whimpered softly. “Bathtub upholstery.”
        Dave produced another bottle of brandy. “Not for you. The company’s branching out.”
        “Then what do you need me for?”
        “Well, someone was supposed to be here twenty minutes ago to talk to you about that. I guess we should go check what the delay is.”

        Dave and Douglas sat down in a pew near the back of the room.
        “Truth in advertising?” The defendant was gobsmacked.
        The judge gave him a sympathetic look. “I know. But, that’s what it says. I’ve double checked it.”
        “Could you triple check?”
        The judge triple checked. “That’s still what it says. ‘Truth in advertising’.”
        “Extraordinary.”
        “Salted peanuts!”
        “I don’t understand it either,” the prosecution chimed in. “But, I’m apparently here to prosecute you for violation of something called…” his voice trailed off as he skimmed some of the paperwork in front of him. “Something called ‘truth in advertising legislation’,” he shook his head.
        “Extraordinary,” the defendant repeated in bewilderment.
        “How do you plead?”
        “To what?”
        “Truth in advertising.” He paused for a moment. “No, that can’t be right.” The prosecutor examined his notes. “No, it’s the opposite of that.”
        “Sallllllted peanuts! Great snack food!” everyone flinched. The vendor had been making his rounds for hours, and didn’t have an “inside voice”.
        “I’m an advertiser. That’s a ludicrous question.”
        “Peanuts!”
        “We need it for the record, though. How do you plead?”
        “Well, guilty, of course. But that hardly seems fair –”
        “Salted peanuts!”
        “– since I am an advertiser, after all. I feel that this legislation discriminates against me.”
        “It does seem pretty unfair,” the prosecutor faced the judge, “don’t you think?”
        The defendant’s lawyer was massaging his temples. “Is this not a court of law?”
        “Well sure,” the judge replied, “but does that mean it has to be a den of racism?”
        “This is not racism.”
        “Whose side are you on?”
        “Salted peanuts!”
        “I wouldn’t mind some peanuts,” the judge addressed the vendor.
        “Salted peanuts?”
        “Salted peanuts.”
        “Salted peanuts!” the vendor made his triumphant way to the stand. “Four nickels for a bag of,” he took a deep breath, “salllllted peanuts!” Everyone flinched.
        The judge rifled through his coin purse, and dug out three nickels and a penny. “I’ve got three nickels and a penny.”
        “I’ve got another nickel.” The defendant dug in his pockets, and passed the nickel to the vendor.
        “Here you are, your honour: salted peanuts.”
        Muffled fumbling and the shrill crinkling of the cellophane wrapper thundered through the judge’s microphone.
        The prosecutor was impressed. “You should probably plead not guilty. There’s not enough evidence to convict you.”
        “How do you figure that?”
        “I spilled coffee on it.” He emptied his mug onto the desk in front of him.
        “Not guilty, then.”
        “No objection, your honor.”
        “I rule in favour of the plaintiff and the defendant.” The judge thwacked his mallet. “Not guilty.”

He who falls upon that Stone, therefore his heart shall break;
and he on whom that Stone shall fall shall be destroyed, no more to wake.
The wrath is stayed for now, yes, ’till the end its embers glow;
the unprotected, then, by “I am He” shall surely it unhindered know.

But who could ever dream to dream from such a Stone as this,
a single drop of blood could be removed? And yet He offers it for free.
This hardened rock, made soft by love for those that on Him fall,
did let Himself be ground to dust, gave up His blood, and died for me.

George Herbert is my favourite poet. This poem touched me, and I want to share it.

A broken ALTAR, Lord thy servant rears,
Made of a heart, and cemented with tears:
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workman’s tool hath touched the same.
A HEART alone
Is such a stone,
As nothing but
Thy pow’r doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame,
To praise thy Name:
That if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.

I’m trapped in the aesthetic! Yes, the form
and flow intoxicate my wax-cast words
and feelings. Rather than the truth, the norm
diffuses; now my poem’s for the birds!

When skipping ’round the glade, the catacombs
of deep within lie cold and unperturbed,
while superficial ramblings far from home
preclude the aid of introspection’s word.

What whimsy know the cobweb burners’ souls,
whose joy comes not from forced forgetting, but
from unobstructed vision to the gold
of candle-light, heedless of what was cut.

I’m trapped in the aesthetic, but I hope
the form I chose retained intended scope.

Alas! The tempest, yes, the raging sea
of words, and love, and life as pure as snow,
I cannot pass to thee.

This love of breadth and scope and art of word,
and whispered winds between the bark and leaves,
and daylight’s life-blood staining The Above,
not mine, but known by me, and loved — alas!
I cannot pass to thee.

This love and life dispensed — so freely, friend! —
can bring no gain to you, or he, or she,
but me alone, no matter how I wish!
These words, this love, this life as pure as snow,
I cannot pass to thee.

Where then to go when light of mine recedes?
To The Above with me, and also there:
these words, this love, this life as pure as snow,
the things — no matter how I wish to share —
I cannot pass to thee:

the things that on that day, as light recedes,
shall sail among the stars with me.

Once they had settled in, the other man introduced himself as Dave, and did most of the speaking for the next while. And as he spoke, Douglas found himself becoming more and more distracted. He couldn’t justify it. Dave was pleasant, and produced a new bottle of brandy from his jacket each time Douglas finished one. His sobriety dealt with, he really ought to have been able to focus.

But he couldn’t.

It felt as though there was something he’d forgotten — something missing — walled off in the back of his mind, slowly digging its way through the wall with the loud, rhythmic strokes of an iron pickaxe. And what did the Benson & Benson Company do, anyway?

At this point, I encourage you to read part of the answer with me, by opening your copy of the Benson & Benson Company Employee Handbook to the third preface.

The Benson & Benson Co. was founded in the mid-nineteenth century following a personal tragedy of its co-founder, Gus Benson. Benson, an engineer, pioneered many of the techniques now commonly used in the construction of bridges. Recognizing his potential, he was contracted by the small town of Bridgefree, Arizona, to contruct a bridge uniting all of Benson’s modern designs and techniques. Constructed in secret over two years beneath a colossal hand-knit plaid tea-cozy, it was set to be unveiled at the town’s renaming ceremony as “the Gus Benson bridge”. Unfortunately for that, the town’s secretaries, when presented with the name, decided that “Gus Benson” must have been a typo, and changed the spelling on all the promotional material. Thus, the bridge was unveiled as “the Suspension bridge”, after which all bridges of its type are known to this day.

Feeling betrayed, Gus Benson ceased accepting contracts, choosing to focus solely on his own private projects. Two full decades would pass before he would return to the world of business. By then hopelessly outdated as an engineer, he was no longer fit for the rigours bridgemaking. Instead, he convinced his brother, Jim Benson, to abandon puppeteering and co-found the Benson & Benson Company. Uniting their talents, they served a market not yet exploited, nor even dreamt of.

Bathtub upholstery.

Fragrant air, a sweet embrace

as shadows lengthen on the ground;

a playful chase: the leaves and wind,

between the branches, ’round and ’round.

I wonder who will win!

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