Size / / /

Twice I have assailed these walls. On the third besiegement

I pay cold cash for entrance. The stacked stones slighted

and somewhat restored, damp and green-stained in cold

streaks, are home, I find, to nestling gulls (stench

and squawk) and starvling beauty. There's more of that

in this stark stone splendor—castle and walls above

the brightest grass atop the huge gray promontory,

where only a thin path leads to the one locked door.

(Where I pay my fine, enter, and explore.) I read that it suffers

the usual bombardments of history: owners changing

in the shuffle of politics, prisoners and revolt, crown jewels

hidden and saved. Mary, Mary quite contrary (Queen of Scots)

walked above this sea, confined; Ninian (saint) built and dwelled;

William Wallace (hero) fought and won. Cromwell's men

starved the castle eight months. One hot summer hundreds

of Scottish Covenenters were packed and tortured into the cellars.

This is more than enough to explain how as I stroll the peaceful,

empty, touristed grounds and find a palm-sized grey stone begging

to be slipped into my pocket, I do. Its weight dogs me, bumps

my thigh as I (a humble, guilty thief) walk back out the gates

and drive away. I have the stone. It reminds me with each step

I take away south as I make my escape. At dinner I pat my pocket,

hope to calm it. That night in my soft borrowed bed I (don't

put it under my pillow, don't rub it until I dream) leave it

pocketed but not forgotten. All night it speaks to me from across

the room, complains and mourns, itching my sleep till I'm fever-

scratched, hallucinating devastations, treachery, bloody wars, stones

blocking the breathless in. Next morning, first thing, I dress and cross

the lane. At the edge of the field I toss it in. But things like this

are far more easily grabbed than let go. My fever dreams continue

for a day, nights I do not sleep or sleep so heavily I never quite wake.

This is how what you take and hold will haunt you, even when

you're days past letting go and have tossed all that disturbance

with your strongest arm into the most peaceful (tilled and muddied)

field. How years later I can still remember its dark weight,

its one sharp point surprising the smooth peace of my palm,

how the memory of this castle (no matter how picturesque and how clear

the light above its walls) brings visions of stinking hunger, mouths

open (beyond wide: squawling, thirsting) in the feverish dark.




Neile Graham's life is full of writing and writers. She is a graduate of Clarion West Writers Workshop and currently serves as their workshop director. Her poetry collections are Seven Robins, Spells for Clear Vision, and Blood Memory, and a spoken word CD, She Says: Poems Selected and New.
Current Issue
2 Jun 2020

Our editors have seen a massive increase in submissions from writers since the Covid-19 crisis, and we want to be able to read and publish that work.
We didn’t want your nail clippings or your blood. Your laughter, or tears, would do.
They say that the Voyagers will outlast us for billions of years.
as if I wouldn’t wish to get all my deaths over with at once instead of waiting in dirt
In place of fear that they will lose control, the posthumans accept that control was never in their grasp and that the natural world extends beyond their reach and that nature has a beauty that is beyond the human.
Issue 1 Jun 2020
By: Jessica P. Wick
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
Strange Horizons
Issue 25 May 2020
By: Dana Wilde
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 18 May 2020
By: Johnny Compton
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jong-Ki Lim
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 11 May 2020
By: Gabriela Santiago
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Ashley Bao
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 4 May 2020
By: Vida Cruz
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Raimo Kangasniemi
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 20 Apr 2020
By: Tamara Jerée
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: L. D. Lewis
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: L. D. Lewis
Issue 13 Apr 2020
By: Jo Miles
Art by: Galen Dara
By: Jo Miles
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jasmeet Dosanjh
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Jasmeet Dosanjh
Issue 6 Apr 2020
By: Elizabeth Crowe
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Shuyi Yin
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Shuyi Yin
By: Nome Emeka Patrick
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 30 Mar 2020
By: Jason P Burnham
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Tara Calaby
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Kaily Dorfman
By: Camille Louise Goering
By: Brian Beatty
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Kaily Dorfman
Podcast read by: Brian Beatty
Issue 23 Mar 2020
Load More
%d bloggers like this: