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June 2012

June 2012 -- Towers



  • Behind the Art:
    Building On Layers
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  • Ask an Artist:
    Editing a Graphic Novel
  • Artist Spotlight:
    Interview with Aaron Pocock


  • Towers


  • Fiction: The Wizard's Stairs
  • Poem: Reflections of Childe Roland

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  • Reflections of Childe Roland
    by Amanda Nethers

    My first thought was the emptiness of it,
    black, solitary, cold, void of feeling,
    nothingness leaving my senses reeling.
    There I, armored by man's best tech and wit,
    tethered as a babe to my mother-ship,
    the finite so suddenly appealing.

    Why had they sent me off on this errand?
    They begged me look to the void, find the light,
    shield my eyes, recycle my air and sight.
    Yet senses do not quickly abandon,
    my soul not fodder for king or canon
    my mind still counting what's left and what's rite.

    Still it was I who set upon this path,
    so eager to catch glimpse of other doors,
    believing that the journey hides the store,
    perhaps knowing that forward takes us back,
    perhaps seeking the fill of what I lack,
    finding comfort in untried and unsure.

    Can I blame he who stood guard as I leapt,
    cheering my exodus beyond reason,
    believing new thought equal to treason,
    living while his mind in docile fog slept,
    closing his eyes to what's given or kept,
    while I chose the apple over Eden?

    No, no, I knew fully what was chosen,
    that the lady and tiger were the same,
    that the darkness might envelop my flame.
    So eager was I for nectar's poison
    believing the venom might embolden
    that I whistled as they wrapped me in chains.

    No, mettle cannot save from metal graves.
    The dark tower calls to each childe in time.
    Willingly I took their armor as mine.
    Flung into the blackened maw of deep space,
    left with only purpose, air, suit, and name
    I searched the void for what they bid me find.

    I prepared to suffer long in this quest.
    I heard so many had failed before me,
    lost in the meaning of what should be,
    not focusing on what eyes can assess,
    their mind wandering to the black excess
    instead of looking for the light unseen.

    I raised my hand, bid goodbye to my guide.
    He eyed me with suspicion and relief,
    that I stood on this side in place of he,
    happily pointing the way from inside,
    warm and safe with no secrets to divine,
    accepting discovery by proxy.

    Quiet with fear I moved myself away,
    closing my mind to the comfort of ships,
    letting the womb through eternity slip
    until abandoned I turned hopeful face
    toward the vast expanse of open space,
    now committed mind and soul to the trip.

    My eyes starving from lack of vision,
    a speck in the ink causing eyes to feast,
    wishing for sight of any man or beast,
    a desert scorned by lights' derision,
    a wasteland to echo my condition,
    mocking and sure of eminent defeat.

    No! I would not fall into this same trap.
    My nature bid me look or do not see.
    I strained my eyes until they were set free,
    searching for the tower there in the black,
    hoping my movement would keep me on path
    I pushed onward, a slave to the journey.

    What little shared my part of the expanse
    was beaten and marred beyond all saving,
    broken husks across the black parading,
    leaving my fate to no question or chance,
    speaking plain the results of such bold dance
    that straddles divinity and raving.

    Wayward satellites absent gravity
    moved silently above, around, below,
    my only markers in the dim tableaux,
    reflecting my secret depravity.
    For what's self pity without vanity,
    a vampire to gorge on growing shadow?

    There in the wasteland of better men's quests
    I spied with stripped bone a gaunt iron horse,
    its weak neck collapsed under unknown force,
    its rusted eyes pitted, groaning with stress,
    a disloyal steed to earn such duress,
    abandoned by its master on the course.

    I turned my eyes inward, looking further
    to drink of my memory and resolve,
    giving succor to the drought brought with call
    by suckling the teat of feelings truer,
    a shield against madness drawing nearer,
    threatening to cage me with manic thrall.

    My sight went first to the academy,
    Cuthbert smiling beneath curly gold mane,
    wearing proud our new uniform and name,
    his friendship an anchor in restless seas
    left drowning from one night of treachery,
    my heart left barren as they doused his flame.

    Such memory is not true wine for souls.
    Grasping another skin I saw Sir Giles
    whose darting eyes betrayed his honest smile,
    both losing their light when death took its hold.
    The hangman's noose trapped foul lies untold.
    My sly friend held traitor's tongue all the while.

    Bah! Better the abyss than such dark thoughts.
    My haunted vision turned back to shadow,
    searching for the faintest glimmer or glow,
    wondering what shades my nightmares had brought,
    what else would share this black path I had sought,
    what small eddy would this vile stream dare show.

    As I blindly drifted through pitch places,
    I failed to note the dawn of purple haze
    'til the serpentine river filled my gaze.
    Vision choked with nebulous embraces,
    I pushed on through misty, kaliedic phases
    fearing what phantoms would dwell in the maze.

    Such decay wrapped in violet illusion
    stunted all that dare wade into its waters,
    dwarfed travelers bent in despair of slaughter.
    Their mute vigil decried my intrusion,
    the ripples revealing shared delusion
    as the thin fašade of beauty faltered.

    Fording this snaking river of plum light
    I placed careful hands and steps before me,
    wary of waking the specters lurking,
    brothers in arms who succumbed in their flight,
    harvested by the Pale Angel's grim scythe,
    my missteps dogged by their wails and shrieking.

    Joyous as my form reached the void once more,
    eager to move on to greater country,
    I bid farewell to the ghosts behind me,
    listing remnants of a forgotten war,
    its meaning as dull as their rusted swords,
    their sacrifice lost to all memory.

    What God or purpose brought them to that place,
    to shatter the bond of body and soul,
    iron waves cresting 'gainst horrors untold,
    their lifeblood ribboned across dark, vast space,
    flowing, mixing 'til none could hope to trace
    the essence of a man within the fold?

    Why there so very far from hearth or home?
    Surely there was nothing there to defend!
    Unless it was they who scattered the winds,
    destroying their world and all they had known,
    now a fine, flowing mist of light and stone.
    What evil earned such foul and bitter end?

    I travelled onward, groping through the gloom.
    Only subtle changes marked my progress.
    Here, an errant moon battered and distressed.
    There, a huddle of stars passing from view.
    A quasar filled my eyes with prickly bloom,
    such glimpse retreating quickly as the rest

    The dim morass shifted its gray colors.
    At times my eyes felt drenched by cold, gray-blue.
    Then angry murk would tint to greenish hue.
    That was when I'd felt my courage falter,
    the bending void reflected taut horror
    sure judgment would not find my honor true.

    Though my body wearied from the journey
    I had come no closer to my bold end,
    no further out than I had wandered in.
    I searched the heavens for some small mercy
    until there I spied a phoenix burning,
    my fiery destined path to Apollyon.

    The blaze melted off the foul, clinging murk,
    pushing the boundary of my vision,
    revealing the bright event horizon,
    a swirling starscape bent in noxious cirque
    blossoming 'round the towering dirk
    before weeping through the dark incision.

    At first I thought my wits had taken leave.
    Even stumbling fool could not be so blind!
    Surely the seeping black had touched my mind
    to cloud what could so easily be seen,
    a pillar bent to bridge the space between,
    a dance of the grotesque and the sublime.

    I knew then, there are other worlds than these,
    all held fixed by their own ebon towers,
    melding the eons, centuries, and hours,
    time lost in the count of real and belief,
    mortared by mixture of faith and concrete,
    each life a rose in its field of flowers.

    My steps sent parting waves across the red
    as my eyes caressed the dark, blind sentry.
    In silent whispers it pulled me gently,
    its chorus of voices filling my head
    They'd bid me seek but I was found instead.
    This tower of souls had granted entry.

    Light charged and retreated in passing waves
    while destiny grew nearer to my sight.
    I could no longer trust in day or night
    nor in the right of sinners to be saved
    as visages of peers long pinned to grave
    'rose witness to the twilight of my fight.

    The din of old tongues hummed into my ears,
    each old friend named, deafening with their knell,
    proclaiming this their paradise or hell.
    Passing each I dwelled with forgotten years
    now shades beyond my love, hatred, or tears,
    they'd formed the links to ring the final bell.

    Hoping my voice could slip bounds and escape
    I spent the last ember of dying flame.
    My lips trumpeting loud, my words proclaimed
    I had not forgotten my father's face,
    I who bore their sorrow, hopes, ills, and grace,
    spoke "Childe Roland to the Dark Tower came."

    Amanda Nethers is a poet and accountant living in Northern Maryland with her husband, two dogs, and a baby on the way. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and has been recently published in Scarlet Literary Magazine and Off The Rocks Volume 14.

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