Mark Andrew Holmes

Fields of black poppies sway and nod in the wind;

An orange sun fights through gray clouds.

The air is preternaturally clear beneath them.

The ground between the rows is utterly devoid of weeds;

Not so much as a blade of grass grows in the ebony soil from which the poppies spring.

A gray road cuts through the fields going nowhere;

Not a beer can, not a gum wrapper or a cigarette butt

Lies on the road's edge.

Light gray against a black that absorbs every photon of light.

The wind blows fitfully, coldly.

No rubber, no steel caterpillar track

Has ever touched this road.

A girl in black robes comes dancing through the fields,

Her manner gay, but her face a strange mixture of felicity and haunted sadness,

Terrible to look upon,

White as good printer paper.

She is an eternal, blighted fifteen.

She stops at the edge of the road.

Immediately there comes a parade of pallid, blighted, naked souls from one direction,

A bruised and damaged congress in a tight pack,

Moving at moderate speed from left to right.

They are as silent as death

Yet as they pass the girl the poisoned earth heaves up a toxic, airy sigh of anguish,

And she buries her face in her hands,

As the sun winks out momentarily.

(Yet there is no darkness except in the earth and where the sun's disk once was.)

She tried to tell them; they wouldn't listen.

The river of shadowy spirits goes on and on, without break

And seemingly without stop.

The girl's slim shoulders shake with silent sobs.

Finally the stream of damned souls ends,

Recedes into the distance to the right of the girl,

And disappears.

A gust of sad wind buffets the poppies.

They are amaranthine: the blossoms never drop, never fade.

The wind dies down.

There is a pregnant pause.

A middle-aged man in a toga of sable black and crimson, garishly striped diagonally, and silver sandals

Walks with stately manner toward the girl

Looking neither to right nor left

Through the poppies, which bow toward him as he passes.

There is something terribly charismatic about him:

He generates a strong magnetic field, like a black hole.

He is a monarch in this weird kingdom;

It is written all over him in big capital letters,

Though he wears no crown.

By the time he reaches his eternally youthful queen, she has stopped crying.

She turns to face him,

And his magnetism intensifies, expands, joins with her own, suddenly erupting darkly,

A silent explosion of pregnant electric tension.

The sun flares up a little and seems to wait.

The poppies are at rapt attention.

At last the dark king speaks,

And when he does, it is deep and infinitely commanding,

Slightly grating, like two boulders rubbing together:

"You must return," he says to his queen.

"You must point the way."

The girl replies:"But, my lord, they never listen.

Will they ever listen?"

The black lord replies: "They begin to heed your message now.

Even now the heroes and heroines taste my ambrosia and my nectar

In the mansions that have stood empty in my house, awaiting their arrival

For untold eons.

At last the mission I took you to my bosom for so long ago begins to bear fruit.

(Rememberest thou? You shrieked when I cleft the earth of the floral garden and tore you to this one. You wept to sit by my side

On your throne of jet,

Bedecked with anemone and asphodel and gems.

You smile at the memory.)

The last words are gentle, but now his voice becomes adamant.

"You must return."

The girl sighs; her voice regains the tinkling melody of so long ago,

At least for the present;

Her previous words had been delivered in accents of melancholy and infinite sadness

Like iron heels ringing on barren stony mountaintops.

"Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven," she says,

And ascends immediately to the overcast sky

In a crackle of thunder.

A dark circular hole opens up in the clouds for her obediently as she ascends, a tiny figure growing rapidly tinier.

She disappears

And for a moment the globe of Terra and its moon appears in the vortex

As the King of the Dead watches, a yellow sun comes out from behind the planet, resplendent against the stars and blackness.

Then the scene disappears, and there is only gray sky and etiolated, pallid sun,

And the wind sighs in anticipation.

© 2002 by Mark Andrew Holmes.

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