This loaf is last. The oven’s fuel is spent.
The millstone rubble, and the golden field
That grew the waving wheat sprouts tent on tent.
Grass crushed to compost by an army’s heel.
These wheels askew on broken axles lie.
Dead oxen led the dray. Now there are blood-
stained outlines of the meat coin could not buy.
The silks and spices moulder in the mud.
The royal gem is cracked. The crumpled crown
Rests on a brow serene; but mangled nose,
Crushed limbs. Cold eyes that led with bold decrees
End, buried early by the broken stone.
We hold. This shattered wall; these burning streets
Shall not be conquered while a heart still beats.
A shot glass, half empty.
Emerald green liquid glints, in
A stopped gold watch.
The late, long day is dying in the West.
The ants and eagles sleep. The bulls digest.
The message-doves seek out their cotes, well fed
And twi-lit roses bloom a deeper red.
The wood is cut. The hay is stooked and stored.
The scythe and axe have found their just reward.
Worn hands relax. Dry lips seek drink and song
And aching legs yearn for the dancing throng.
The fiddle finds a tune that cannot end,
The wine and cider flood from glass to glass,
And joy abounds in every lighted space.
The moon will reach her peak, and then descend;
The countless stars will scatter and grow sparse
And dawn rouse ruin on a night of waste.
Pity the ones who once have seen the light:
Who touched perfection, and who turned away
To tend this broken world another day.
Who, proven futile, rejoined the fight.
For when they fall — a fact that Fate ensures —
It’s not as martyrs, laid in gloried graves,
But lost, last embers of a flame that fades.
No new Utopia shall prove their cause.
When stars have faded red, too deep to see
When fields’ last soil billows into dust
That last soul, striving still to do what’s just
Will ask, “What purpose placed this strength in me?”
That question echoes as existence ends
And stands unanswered as the void descends.
“The lamp will overheat unless turned off,”
A dimmed projection screen proclaims. Beneath
A slide announces “Conference of The Wise.”
The seats are empty; new, beneath the dust.
Outside, upon the grass, two tables stand.
The first holds urns of tea and coffee — cold;
The second cups, and plates in plastic wrap
(A turned-up corner leaks a whiff of rot).
A wall of weathered posters rings the yard.
One heading asks, “Mortality: a Choice?”
While elsewhere, “Fate and “Haste” alone hold out.
The rest is bleached-off ink and tattered chaff.
A fallen fragment twitches in the breeze.
“Beware,” it reads, “the minds that think of these.”
It is the fate of paladins to fall —
Or else to stumble on, far from the Light,
Left lonely when their cause demanded all
And friends retreated for another fight.
Having no other beacons, they must shine
In lands left black and trackless — stars of hope
That leave behind belief in Dawn’s pink line
When they are snuffed beneath Night’s cloudy cloak.
The wards they leave are hot and iron-hard,
But even these are ashes in the end:
Strewn through dead fields by winds that leave stone scarred;
Consumed by rising depths that reap and rend.
When echoes end, the tallest walls are felled,
But grass sprouts green where Light’s last stands were held.
The echoes fade, and all the world is still.
The blood of dragons smoulders in the dust.
Like a stray star, a single angel’s quill
floats slowly down, gliding from gust to gust.
A thunderous sunset finally hides its glow
behind a cracked horizon. All is black.
A dry leaf rustles. Quiet chitters grow
And furtively, the noise of night comes back.
A faint flame flares. A lantern springs to life.
Dew glistens on cold hands and empty eyes.
Light plays on shields and faces raw with strife;
What names and goals they had, this field denies.
The light is snuffed. The quiet footsteps fade.
From this destruction, nothing shall be made.
They were the brave, who stood against the Beast;
They were the fools, who rushed to fight and fall.
The honour of their names has never ceased;
Their scoundrels' hearts are scorned in every hall.
Confronted with their crimes, and told "Atone",
They swore to serve, and shield us all from doom.
We had them vow to leave the past alone;
But even then, they planned to sack the tomb.
They slew the guards around the ancient stones,
They broke a seal that bound all mortal kin,
With angry tools, they smashed the honoured bones;
They ground to dust the lich that laired within.
And then they fled, and past our laws survive,
While we are ruined, shattered, but alive.
The day was due when all the world would break,
When things too strange to name would rise and roar,
From mountain peaks to seabed, stone would shake,
Then cease to be. This globe would be no more.
While still we lived, we took all we could spy,
Abandoned lives for trips we wished we'd made,
Played one last waltz, so dancing we might die,
Or gambled all on games we'd never played.
And now we wake, alone, without a cent,
To birdsong and the sunrise through the smoke.
And try to find someone who'll share a tent.
We all attempt to see it as a joke.
We who, deceived, believed our doom was real,
As such did act, and thus true doom did seal.
In piles high, the gold of olden kings
And silver goblets set with polished jade;
Great iron gates and dainty wire-wrought things.
The cream and crest of all the Earth once made.
A sword of steel unmatched before or since:
Damascus wrought, the proof its patterned sheen.
A cut-quartz circlet fit to crown a prince,
With single, giant emerald glinting green.
The heady scent of spices stored in bulk
And clearest honey, in the rarest jars.
A bottled squid — formaldehyde-drenched hulk —
Its wall-set jar a window to the stars.
A treasure ark, on dying sunbeams hurled,
To bear the wonders of a finished world.