A star streaks the eastern reaches of the universe

Across gulfs of empty darkness, silent planets, gas giants

It died a million years ago

Tonight it shines brighter than anything else in the night 

Across empty plains, sleeping meadows, dusty window sills

Gazing to darkened skies, fields gauzed with a listless, dusky haze 

And everything’s still 

The lovers stay entangled in the fields, their backs still fresh with mud

Close, the warmth of their sides pressed together, the rawness of their breath

Tender like an open wound

They had loved as they had never loved before, for the first time, and they were quiet 

They had risked it all, to be there, the world was collapsing on them 

They knew the consequences if they were caught, they’d be dead by morning

Lost in the spinning darkness, with everything still and quiet, a sudden blade of light

Pierces the night

He watched it go by, suddenly breathless, he had been praying in that very moment

Praying to his God, his faith, the universe

Send him a sign, a song, a star

Anything, anything at all, just say it was going to be fine

He wasn’t going to die, he would meet his lover tomorrow, and the day after

They’d be free to love as deeply and humanly as possible, in shadows, secret

In the fields at night, in quiet groves, amidst still forests 

Wherever it may be, he did not care, he welcomed even the depths of hell

Anything at all, just for the world to not pry his lover away

He had never found love as deep as theirs, and he’s convinced he would spend his life

Never relishing a kiss like his ever again, his kingdom for the exact brush of those lips

The tears stained his flushed cheeks, maybe somewhere out there resided

A place in the world where they could simply be, as simple as

Coffee in the morning, or as unassuming as a shared gaze 

The morning came, and mornings after

He never met his lover again

Yet the hope remained, amidst the grass, the breeze 

The wind, it howled, it carried their laughter

To another time, another place, somewhere safe 

However fleeting it may have been, the earth remembers, 

It carries their tears, the salt of it flowing to its roots

The earth remembers, a sunny day in swaying fields 

The curve of their smiles, the freedom of their breaths

Taking flight like doves into the tilting blue, kisses they would never take back. 

A young labourer hauling the weight of the world, anguished beneath the gaping maw

The starless void hanging over him, a sentence worse than starvation or death 

Hopeless, his heart excavated, as they had that hole in the sand earlier 

Where the great statue of his king would be erected, he could see it standing looming over him

Bigger than the night sky, silent and imperious

He heard their screams from the pits, their feverous, endless worshipping

Ozymandias, King of Kings! 

Resting beneath the jaded glow of the moon, the skin on his back thinly stretched 

The cries ring out across the lifeless dunes, the only form of life that roars within 

As the moon crested over the sandswept pinnacle, a flash suddenly catches his eye

A thin trail of light, cutting across the empty night 

The only light visible for miles, he stops mid-gait and stares 

A stillness ran through him, like the quiet before the dawn explodes into a morning

When fire consumes the world like a wildfire, when daylight envelops the sky

When the Sun settles on his skin like powdered gold, when he feels the ocean swell 

Within him, an ocean of life, spurring like a dove 

The young man, under his lips, recites a prayer

But not to his king or his country, no, to freedom 

Freedom to no longer live under chains, or sneering lips, or gilded thrones

He recites his prayer till it joins the feverous chorus, into the windless night

The morning came after, the kingdom awoke to a new day

Mutters of rebellion and mutiny stench the air, exchanged under hushed breathes

Rumours swirling like the smoke in opium parlours

Filling the gossip in debauched dens 

Eddying like the wine in the drunkards into a possibility, spurred to a call

The God who calls himself, Ozymandias, King of Kings

Was simply a man draped in gold and silks, a false prophet 

With a mouth full of rot and unanswerable crimes, his hands wrapped

Around the neck of a dead lamb, its life wrangled under a feverish choir 

The kingdom’s eyes opened slowly, with each passing dawn 

The veneer slipping with each quiet exchange

The embers fanned into a flame by every nightfall, every secret meeting

At the heart of it all, a tired young man, his back stretched thin 

Draped in a loose cloak, ducking into alleys

Bringing the pieces together, slowly, painstakingly

With every calculated move, every loose strand of the plan shaved, every gambit made

The people moving in shadows, silhouettes in the night, a trail of cloth in corners

Trails of gaslights hovering, incorporeal, beneath the statue they had moulded

With shaking fists and gleaming brows, a river of blood taking root in the earth

A vague hope forming beneath the shadow of that cold stone sneer

The darkness it casted over their kingdom, the lies it stood so precariously on 

In a shroud of smoke, the coals stoked, the kindling simmering into

A primordial blaze, with an ashen visage, snarling teeth and a beating heart

As vast as the black expanse of night, whose hand enveloped the capital in mere hours 

Leaving the statue of their God, his epoch gaze, staring into bloodied skies

The bones of his empire crumbling, dissolving into the sand

The grains which composed its pillars, turning into silt

The cries of his followers, hollowing down lifeless corridors 

Upon his golden throne, a splatter of blood 

Ozymandias, King of Kings! 

The people shouted, as they hacked into the stone 

Once shaped so finely by chisel, now wrangled by its makers

With tools coarse and savage, as the spell they were under

Ozymandias, King of Kings! 

As he crumbled, a titan succumbing to the night 

The embers adrift in the wind, laying kisses upon his shattered visage

 As smouldering snowflakes, they lie there undisturbed 

TIll morning came, and many mornings after

Until an aeon is over, and all that’s left is a pile of charred stone

Brutalised with the marks of a calamity untold, the story of its people lost

Lying untouched, cusped in the heart of an open desert

Its empire had vanished into silt, with all that remains 

 A cracked sneer, commanding an empty sky

An imperial gaze, surveying its graveyard 

A barren gulf, a lone star reigning the night. 

Waves welter and claw through blackened shores untouched to time

Sweeping range of hills and sea cast under draperies of nightfall

Vistas of inhospitable darkness cusped upon the edge of the world

A note punctures the silence, like ink blotching the night

A haunting lull emerging from the waves

A lighthouse sitting by the edge of the primordial sea

Notes of sweetness drifting from its spire

The tune of a lullaby falling from her mouth

She sits, cradling a child in her arms

The two nestled in its light, gazes intertwined

“Mama, tell me more stories please.”

So she did, so the world turned a little more in the darkness

The bitter ocean breeze settled on their necks, the waves howled outside

“Was the ocean always this scary?”

“Not always. It was always calmer when papa was here.”

“So did papa control the ocean?”

“No, he talked to it.”

“Like me! It always sings happy songs to me, like papa did.

I can hear it, clearly in the daytime

but tonight, it seems…angry.”

She holds him tighter, as if sensing the winds would rip them apart

“Don’t be angry. Why is it angry, mama?”

She heard the waves crash upon the rocks, a clarion call

“Because no one can hear it scream.”

The boy shrinks into his mother’s arms, frightened

“Don’t be afraid, Louis. Everything will pass,

Like the storm, we are all helpless to life’s currents.

We can only hold on and brave it.”

She catches a glimpse of light through the window

A star traversing across waves, through time, cresting dark swells of blue

Flaring brilliantly in the dark, for a moment, revealing a night brighter than day

The young boy still seated on her lap, followed her gaze 

“Look at that, isn’t it beautiful?

People from ancient cultures, long ago, used to tell stories of the stars

How they were sent from heaven, how they were the dying breaths of lost worlds

People, even back then, wished upon stars

They had their own hopes, dreams, fears they could tell no other

Look, they’re all just stories now, but the world will remember us

Even when you and I are bones in the earth, a piece of us will remain

On unseen lips, our names scattered as the leaves in fall 

Or the brilliant rivulets that flow in spring

How I wish you could understand what I mean, Louis

To put your wish upon a star, let it soften your hurt

And let it carry your prayer somewhere safe

Understand that the universe is big enough for your grief

Escape into its embrace, open as the sky, let it hold your sadness for you

You are but one person, a brief flower, in this big lonely world.

And we were never made to carry a hurt so deep.”

The child smiled, reaching for his mother’s cheek

“What’s your wish, Louis?”

He smiled, 

To see you again, mama. 

She blinked and he was gone

Her lap empty, her fingers laid where his head would’ve been

The silence cut deeper than any knife ever could, the stab crystallised 

She felt a wound opening in her chest, as all her silences tumbling out

The wind had took him away, the waves snatched his life, he was smiling

She’d seen it unfold far too many times till the sight of it destroyed her

She recalls it like it was only yesterday

Chained to her tower, watching him wade into the depths, her plea unheard

“Bring his body back, please, please.”

That was the last night she held him in her arms

Now her song falls upon empty beds, as the days drift along mindlessly 

Watching the seafoam ebb and swell, humming her love to his ocean grave

The world had stopped turning long ago

When he walked into the ocean

Wanting to hear a happy song.

She stared quietly out the balcony, a single ruinous star in the night

Maybe it was ok to feel this way, she reasoned

He was standing behind her, maybe one day I won’t see him anymore

The universe was big enough to hold his absence, 

surely one day it’ll forget her too.

A decrepit shack, fallen from halcyon times

Sits unseen by the edges of a tall misty forest 

Trees whose brambles reach outwards, yet to claim another victim 

Inside the shack is a man, he rests on a creaky rocking chair

He stares into the dark empty screen of a television, trying to find a reflection

He drifts down collapsed hallways, staring at the graveyard of old family photos

He goes out and wanders the perimeters of his abode, but he can never leave

In his free time, he dreams about his younger days, lush with life and romance 

He recalls the time he spent with friends, lovers, the lasts of his once big family

The warmth of company, the quiet joy of living, the slow creep of death

If he could, he would’ve reclaimed every second of it, every inch of life

All the humour, joy, even the fog of melancholia that followed

He would’ve seen countless deaths play out, but he’d also see every birth

The faces that populated his life, all his nieces and nephews, his only daughter

Every conception of life, moments, memories that would haunt him

Reminding him every sunless day, joy was a more potent weapon than grief

Grieving not the passing of time and people, but what was once there

The humanity that bled through empty corners, the histories that tangled their roots

The intangibles that bound people together – blood, violence, love

The intimacy of simply being alive, like wading into a pool of light

He closed his eyes, trying to recall those old sensations

A smile in the morning, a sip of tea, fingers laced through his own

That spur of warmth in his chest, in awe of beauty 

The brushes and touch of another human, stumbling in the dark or embracing the light

Even the haze of sunlight that would cloud his vision, reminding him voraciously 

He was there, he was breathing, he was alive

It was unendurable, the rhythm of his heart, spluttering like lines of poetry 

He had never felt so human

Though he never would be again, as he stands in the sun now and feels nothing

Not a dash of warmth on his cold skin, nor a trace of life in his empty chest

A soulless reminder of the bruised heart that once thumped with so much 

Fight and grit, that held on relentlessly despite everything, and refused to let go of life.

How it now laid unmoving, crystallised in the very moment it finally lost the battle

He touched his chest, trying to remember what it felt like

Trying to hear a song 

A presence appeared beside him, unseen curtains pulling back 

Her complexion dulled like stone, a river of time etched into her face

He tried to hold her hand, but as always they just passed right through

The two drifted to the patio where they stood, staring up

A star tracing the furthest corner of the galaxy, million of light years away

Its fate sealed in some starless abyss, long gone, like they were

Surrounded by a sky full of dead things

But only now does the echo of its celestial journey fill the night, what once was a 

Brilliant jewel in the night sky, one that spread light across aeons

That carried the prayers of the living, and the hymns of the dead 

That had to shoulder the weight of the world on its shoulder 

Or an unspoken wish confined within cages of oppression

Their names will never blossom on another’s lips again, no one will send them letters

No one will lay flowers on their graves, or tend to their herb garden

Their lives left only in pictures and stories, shards of glass

Shimmering in a pool of light, a puddle when the pavements dry

Everyday, through whispers that ran uncaged like wind, a celebration of their lives

The star carrying its journey onwards, appearing just so briefly to remind them

Of hope

With the echoes of their lives scattered like the wind, they would reclaim it all, one by one

He looked at his wife, her face worn with age and an eternal silence

But for the first time since they died, he saw her smiling

Though their fingers never meet, they reached out anyways 

Because so long as they can remember, they’ll still try regardless.

Written By: Kay Lynn

Edited By: Merissa

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