Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Inn (a Poem)

My good friend and former college roommate is gearing up for another overseas deployment. While sorting through his worldly possessions, he stumbled across something that was once lost. It's a poem that I wrote during my junior year at the University of Michigan. I'm so glad to see it that I am (perhaps unwisely) posting it here. Though it is a very amateurish work by a young engineering student (embarrassingly specific and long on insider gaming references), it might possibly speak to someone somewhere. I'm publishing it mainly out of sentimentality and because it tracks my evolution as a gamer right to the precise moment in time when I wasn't sure if I'd ever role-play again. I resisted the almost unbearable urge to revise and edit.

The Inn

The Inn was the World
The World was Wonder
Wonder was Dave's House on Huntington
Between Mack and Holiday
We'd check our paint-stir swords and broomstick staves
With George, the Siamese cat that doubled as doorman
At the other end of the table we'd hear old Darnt Jonax
The 27th-level half-elven cleric/magic-user/thief
Humbly brag how he slew 468 kobolds 
Down on level 6 with only his +8 Ginsu knife
Shucks, we'd accomplished a greater feat  only yesterday
When hordes of trolls and other nasties
Launched a surprise attack
On our secret fortress in Dave's garage
Dave and I got very special at the Inn
We were the only customers

***

The Inn was Retreat
Retreat was Relief
Relief from loneliness most foul and complete
Firegiants and Bugbears made far better company
Than dodgeballs, bullies, teachers, and girls
I would make straight there daily
After I had escaped from the terrible dungeons
Of the infamous Brownell Middle School
Brian was the proprietor back then
His fatherly hands pouring me a cup of whatever dream was on tap
I preferred the one about the cities in the clouds
Its head would leave such a pleasant mustache on my lip as I drank
I spent years talking to the pixies, centaurs, and satyrs
That worked for Brian out of love
They would say, "Here comes the young wizard
He's our number one customer"
I was the only customer

***

The Inn was our Home
Our Home was our Company
A Company of Seven mad heroes from other times and places
Business was booming since we took over
Fresh pizza and coca-cola were served to all comers
A big screen TV was installed in front
To show Star Wars and James Bond flicks on Saturday nights
But our customers would sit at their tables
And tell tales of heroic grandeur that made movies seem as cartoons
They would claim that it was they that made Middle-Earth and Nehwon
Safe for all those who chose to walk in their pages
It was they that saved the sun from being put out
And it was they who kept the gates of Hell from swallowing Detroit
I took more than my share of turns posing as barkeep
Pouring better libation that any of my peers
But we preferred drinking to serving in every case
After all, we were the customers

***

The Inn was our Castle
Our Castle under Siege
A Castle of antiquity that was being swallowed
By convenient stores and condominiums
Paul and I were partners and we still served many patrons
But business was bad and we could only open seasonally
Our customers were a strange lot when they did come
There was Francis, the schizophrenic thief-turned hero
And Navarre, the general who watched too much Star Trek
They still saved the world from unspeakable terrors
They even saved the universe on occasion
But it was only after they were done with Physics
Only after they had gone to that Pistons game
The vice of reality had our little Inn in its jaws
Forcing the patrons to leave for fear of collapse
The Inn was nothing without customers

***

The Inn is my Mind
My Mind is Closed
Closed to the heroic patrons of days gone by
Francis is in politics these days
Navarre is entering his first year of residency
But the Inn is still there
In a dark alley between the TCBY and the 7-Eleven
The ghosts of the past beg to return
The kegs are still full, the aging ales screaming to be drunk
The oaken tables are sticky from the dreams spilt upon them
George sleeps soundlessly under the barstool
I have closed the Inn for renovations
I'm removing the big screened TV and installing a computer
A computer that will speak to George and speak to the tables
A computer that is plugged into the aging ale
The Inn is locked
But I have the key
Tim Ballew
May 19, 1992

3 comments:

ze bulette said...

I really enjoyed it Tim - Thanks for sharing!

m.s. jackson said...

Very interesting, I enjoyed it! (+8 Ginsu knife! LOL)
I am gearing up to deploy as well, tell your friend to stay safe and perhaps he and I will cross paths and get a little gaming in.

Trey said...

Nice. Really evocative of what must have been some good times.