Poem of the Week: De Vermis

Fantasy author Robert Jordan died this week, without completing his 12-book Wheel of Time saga. His death is the sort of event I most feared as a lonely teenager, when I lived in books: that an author would die before tying up the loose ends, and their imagined world would be left suspended in ambiguity forever. Imagine if JK Rowling or JRR Tolkien hadn’t been given the time to finish their masterworks. Although I stopped following The Wheel of Time years ago, and almost never read fantasy anymore, I do feel a pang of regret that Jordan never got to see things through. But his wife and cousin say they have sufficient notes to publish the final book of the series according to his wishes.

Whatever you may think of Jordan as an author, as a man he earned the friendship of some remarkable people – among them the brilliant John M. (Mike) Ford, who died last year. I’ve had this poem of Ford’s knocking around in my head for a while, and given his friendship with Jordan, it seems like the right time to post it. I believe it has only appeared online, originally at Patrick Nielsen Hayden’s blog Electrolite. Ford seems to have written it in only a few hours, to meet a hypothetical challenge posed in a post earlier that day. If only we could all toss things like this out in casual conversation. . .

De Vermis
John M. Ford

The worm drives helically through the wood
And does not know the dust left in the bore
Once made the table integral and good;
And suddenly the crystal hits the floor.
Electrons find their paths in subtle ways,
A massless eddy in a trail of smoke;
The names of lovers, light of other days —
Perhaps you will not miss them. That’s the joke.
The universe winds down. That’s how it’s made.
But memory is everything to lose;
Although some of the colors have to fade,
Do not believe you’ll get the chance to choose.
Regret, by definition, comes too late;
Say what you mean. Bear witness. Iterate.

More of John M. Ford’s occasional works (at Making Light)

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3 Responses to Poem of the Week: De Vermis

  1. mdvlist says:

    That’s really striking. Pity that formal poetry is generally out of fashion, when rhyme alone can do so much.

  2. cicada says:

    It can, indeed! I spent the last day in bed with food poisoning, the first quatrain of that poem circling through my head pretty much continuously. Apparently it has a good feverish-and-sleep-deprived rhythm.

  3. Steve Bodio says:

    Wonderful poem. I first saw it on my friend “Dr Hypercube’s” blog Diary of a Mad Natural Historian which you might also enjoy– he too likes strange bio- visions.

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