I need you to know that this poem
was going to be a listicle, another litany
of superlatives, plaudits, and praises
to briefly top that mountain, before more
would be cast upon by others, to be lost
in the great glacier of gaming legend.
This poem was going to be an essay, loaded
with bullets, little shots of aggression
aimed at nobody, because nobody disagrees
that the sun is bright, the sea is wet,
or that Super Nintendo’s Final Fantasy VI
is a glacier-wrapped Everest of story.
But by definition, nothing’s new in repetition.
There’s nothing left to say about that journey,
no new spins or takes but contrarian,
no discourse but communal nostalgia
for the Wagnerian scale, the oceanic heart,
the symphonic score and global humanity, so:
I need you to know that this is a poem
about me and my brother Ian on weekends
so many years ago, how we still chase them
when we’re able to talk, how he still plays
character themes on the baby grand in his condo,
as I on the uke in both of my houses, laughing
over the lyrics we wrote to the Mt. Kolts tune—
la DA da da SNOOP Doggy DOG-gy—
how we still argue over who’s Edgar or Sabin,
how I can see his 9-year-old face more clearly
than any other memory I have: staring up
at the screen from a crouch, rapt and innocent,
his red hair all poufy with curls, buckteeth out
and blue eyes wild, my Gau, my feral angel.
I need you to know that this poem is a trap
to tell you to hold fast to your loves, human
and human-adjacent. I spent years in recovery
from addiction to porn, from homogenizing
everything’s uniqueness with sex, flattening
complex feelings into simple lusts, years
before which, all I’d left for myself was Ian
and our game, the patchy raft to which I’d cling
winding blind through my self-made serpent trench
filled with asps of my own lonely summoning.
I need you to know that Ian and our 16-bit bond
saved my life, and I need you to know that you
become your collections, those to which you return,
the waters of wells from which you drink most.
We can be our own villains and victims, both
Kefka poisoning the river, and Cyan mourning
his poisoned family; but we can also be both
Terra and her orphans, the savior and the saved.
I need you to know that just as every poem
needs a reader to be written, every game
and its plot, heroes, battles, and bosses,
every world shattered and balance restored
needs a player, and perhaps their own Ian,
without which there’s no game, no story to be told.
Art by Yoshitaka Amano