Self-Portrait as Bilbo Baggins Ada HoffmannI am barefoot, eight, and buried in ten thousand teddy bears while you read to me. I pick them up in twos and threes, match them to the nonsense names of dwarves. I march them all around your room in our little hole in the ground. I pile the pillows up to make a mountain. Inside hides a white bear half my size. I can't cram in all the dwarves for their dashing around, the theft, the secret doors. I arrange and rearrange, undaunted. You tell my mother later, "I don't know if she was listening, but she had a good time." Over casserole you explain that hobbits are three feet tall, like me. I want to stay this size forever. Later, your Lord of the Rings waits on onionskin, marked by a ribbon. I am nine now, and practical. You are the hairy-toed audiobook playing, entertainment while I clean my room, until it bores me. You have the patience of meadows but this is an awfully long book, and there are things to do. Pictures to draw. Maybe you already see it, how thirteen will break me, how even eleven will grind. Maybe you are a wizard. You're too wise to call me ungrateful, but maybe you see how I'm growing too slow and too fast, both at once, like a lopsided spider. And you are growing sick. There will be screaming between these walls when the poison in your veins and mine finds its voice. There will be creatures, veiled in shadow, who ride in through the cracks, whispering, Shire. I know none of this. I have not longed to be invisible. I have not yet known the hates and needs that make men wraiths. I am eleventy-one and three feet tall, and not even I understand what I have got in my pocket.
Ada Hoffmann is a knobbly gremlin who lives in southern Ontario trying to teach poetry to computers. Her speculative poetry has appeared in Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, and Stone Telling. You can find her ranting about autism at ada-hoffmann.com, or on Twitter at @xasymptote.