My wife’s computer spontaneously shit itself a week or so ago, and so she’s been playing a lot of console games while we wait for the new machine-baby to arrive. There’s been a lot of Smash Bros., which is why this sonnet is about Zelda.
It’s also about Zelda because Zelda, as a concept and as a franchise, is really, really important to me. I had an NES, and then a Nintendo 64 a bit later, and I remember a lot of nights where I ended up sitting in the dark, transfixed by Mario, and Starfox, and Goldeneye, and Ocarina of Time.
Link and Zelda is maybe the purest expression of that ancient knight-errant-and-fair-lady trope in our modern mythologies, and when I was a teenager falling in love with other girls and trying to insist I wasn’t… the formal, ritualistic purity of that relationship, the deep devotion of it alongside the constant consciousness that it can’t ever be closer than it is… I fought hard not to notice how much I related to that feeling.
In every game we played, I was the Knight. The other girls didn’t want to play the boy characters – fine, great, more swords for me, give it – and I was a head taller than everyone else starting at five years old. When they fell down and scraped their knees, I bandaged them with my scarves and carried them home. I felt proud. I felt useful. I felt like a Knight, and unlike when my grandmother endlessly harped on me to “act like a lady,” acting like a Knight didn’t make me feel weak, didn’t make me feel small, didn’t make me feel like a toy on a shelf, something pretty and pointless, something to be seen and not heard.
I put that part of myself – and pretty much every other part – away around the time I was fifteen. I tried very hard to conform, to follow all the proscribed steps. I thought that would keep me safe.
You know the rest of the story. No one is safe. I let them take my swords because they promised me a palace. Only obey for a while longer, stay for a while longer, and your kingdom will come.
Children, they burned down the kingdom. But swords and ocarinas don’t burn, so grab yours and let’s storm the palace.
I only saw a flash of your blue eyes –
your cry the same blue light, cutting the rain –
your face alive with fright, but not with pain
you let something fall as the horse sped by.
I’ve known you only minutes now, all told,
or should I count the words you’ve said to me,
the secrets heard, the fear you let me see,
the burdens we were both too young to hold?
Trouble is, each move you make has power.
There’s not a breath I can afford to waste.
Whether seven or seventy-two hours
in every single mask I see your face
and I promise, when I find your tower,
I’ll butcher the pig who’s taken your place.