Size / / /

Steel-blue at birth, cooling

into yellow with maturity, sore red on the deathbed,

halos once emanated above every human

head. Hardly visible beneath

the noonday sun, glowing

like ripened lemons in shade, spectral

and uncertain under the fog—the cry of the watch

along the wallstead, "Halos on the road,"

and the city gates slowly cranked open.

Like flesh and mind, halos

diminished and lost their brilliance,

witches and soothsayers in the sickroom

reading circular augurs of light—a coppery color

indicating malignancy within

the organs, tinge of green at the outer

aura sign of good hope,

hue of orange meaning frenzy within the soul

or heart or both, with no cure.

Like flesh also, halos dimmed and sagged

into wrinkles and crow's feet,

dripping like red candle wax around the face,

eyes imprisoned behind crimson bars of light. It was said

the oldest and wisest had halos as low

as their throats and homes were established

for those such as this, though most refused

to pass beyond those doors, dying

alone behind the bars of their halos.

No one knows for sure when the era

of halos ended; some say with a flood,

others with fire, others with nothing at all

except Time which owns all things

until they are as broken as sand,

for Time creates the stuff of which it consists

and thus is eternal. Not so with halos,

which faded away to the moans of soothsayers

prophesying that heretics would gain ascendancy

claiming humans were created not with light but clay,

the filth of the world animated into traitorous

worshippers of the burning

sun, sole light above the head.

For such ravings the aged soothsayers themselves

were declared heretics and banished

to the night and the wilderness, senile eyes weeping

behind molten laurels, a host of silent

halos along the wallstead watching every step of the way.

Tobias Seamon's first novel The Magician's Study was recently published by Turtle Point Press. Other work has appeared or is forthcoming in such places as Mississippi Review, Pebble Lake Review, Santa Clara Review, and Strange Horizons. He lives with his wife in upstate New York. You can see more of Tobias's work in our archives, or send him email at
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24 Jan 2022

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