I am delighted to announce that my poem The Woman Sings Her Marriage Into Being is now part of Issue Seven of Through The Gate, one of my favorite venues. I am delighted to share the issue with Sonya Taafe, Mari Ness, Selena Bulfinch, and I amazed at how Mitchell Hart has put together a “death, ghosts, and birds” issue full of poems I love and am very proud to be among.
There is a weird fandom story behind this poem, one I promised to share when it was published, so here it goes now. This poem is secretly about Lord of the Rings. Well, actually, it is secretly about two spaces never seen anywhere in Lord of the Rings, but invented by Tolkien — it is about Harad, the South-lands where the brown people in Middle-earth live (something like an analogue for MENA), and it is about Numenor, the ancestral homeland of Gondor and Arnor, sunk beneath the sea.
On Numenor, the island nation of humans, there were little scarlet birds called kirinki, said to be no bigger than wrens. Nobody knows what happened to the birds during the Sinking of Numenor, a wide-scale tragedy in which the entire population of the island, sans a couple of boats, sank in an act of divine outrage because of the actions of the king, corrupted by Sauron’s influence. It has always bothered me tremendously that in a story ostensibly full of divine figures of immense power, who save some but not others, the population of the whole island was put to death.
This dissatisfaction led me to write a little headcanon here about how the colonial subjects of the Numenoreans reacted to the sinking, including a story about magic turning the dying Numenoreans into birds and sending them across the sea, to live among the burial places of a far desert tribe, out of the sight of anyone who would recognize or know them. So, in a very peripheral way, this story is from the margins of Middle-earth, full of things I think readers deserve to see even if Tolkien didn’t — two women who love each other despite their differences between them; old, old blood magic written in song; the impossible heroic rescue from death itself; a love story set in a corner of the world where “the villains” come from.
But you don’t have to read it as a bit of Middle-earth poetry at all. Many cultures across the world associate birds and ghosts, and brides taken from the lands of the dead are long overdue wives of their own, who love them for who they are.