KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 6: Fall 2016
Ekphrastic Poem: 211 words

Tolkien’s First Cover

by Gloria Keeley

Thomas Wolfe was right about going home
my once idyllic, peaceful valley
my scene inside an Easter egg
gone with its shadows
1950 in Millbrae, California
the town new, wide open
deer walking our creek in the backyard
no fences, everything free
a neighborhood of mushroom houses
sitting like Chinese ladies
with big round sun hats
overlooking their crops in the heat
you don’t have to go down
between the black spaces
to see the current lack of color
revisiting brings me to tears
no more shredded clouds
no more waterfalls
no more liquid refreshments for statue birds
who would vogue like Madonna
grazing on a velvet green rug
dirty water has seeped beneath the soil
draining life as I knew it
fish faces now gasp
at the base of trees
I feel their need
I breathe their gill air
lightless lanterns grow like berries
pinata-filled with the ocean’s roar
among beached whales
among my splintered memories
I still dream of the bay peninsula
the darkling sky
the green arc of a rare night rainbow
I walk along the paths
remembering crayon colors
displaying the lost art of protean
I switch off the sun
pull down the deadly nightshade
climb the skeletal tree
and sleep with the frog


—Based on the cover of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring *

Gloria Keeley
Issue 6, Fall 2016

is a graduate of San Francisco State University with a BA and MA in Creative Writing. She currently volunteers at the grammar school she attended, teaching poetry writing to third graders. Her work has appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Chiron, Slipstream, The MacGuffin, Midnight Circus, Orbis, Stillwater, Ember: A Journal Of Luminous Things, El Portal, and other venues.



* Publisher’s Note:

Three dozen cover versions of The Fellowship of the Ring have been produced since 1955 by various publishers. Keeley’s wistful and nostalgic poem was inspired by the amazing cover of the 1967 Ballantine paperback. (The red seal on the cover reads: Houghton Mifflin Company / Dolphin Edition / Ballatine Books.)

In the 1960s, J.R.R. Tolkien approved Ballantine as authorized publisher of the paperback edition of his trilogy (The Lord of the Rings), yet the author was distressed by the cover art provided for Fellowship. He wondered what it had to do with the story, and why the artist had included emus. For details and a larger cover image, see Andrew Liptak’s article in Kirkus Reviews (December 5, 2013): The Unauthorized Lord of the Rings.
Ballantine cover of J.R.R. Tolkien's book, Fellowship of the Rings


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