“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.
Prepare now for the plunge into the deep:
To slumber through that sea of currents strange,
To flee the storms rampaging as we sleep,
And know we'll waken to a world of change.
We fall to face the grim Leviathan,
Who once survived the storms that now return.
From such an ancient mind, we'll dare to learn
A history we hope contains a plan.
To floods, we leave the rooms that were our home.
To thunderstorms, the towers of our song.
To leaf and thorn, the lands we made our own.
To hope and pride, our boasts when we were strong.
Our wisdom, both witheld and not yet won,
We'll save till we can rise and face the sun.