Her Gaze

A terza rima by Mary K. Gowdy

A candle among many, lighting, lilting flames,
from one to another, each signaling the beginning.
Blowing dust from the wall, I paint the lines,

tentative sketches like the first steps, climbing
up hills, the burning fields as I remember:
the sounds, the chants as we draft down the damning

doom of our rebellion. Wreck our tormentors,
the lavish ones in their lone ebony tower.
We march with all our great onslaught’s splendor.

I, one soldier among many, stride through the despair
of the broken buildings’ torn-up streets. I slip on
their blood pouring from their guts to devour

The city in a slick red rain. Once daylight is gone,
we, breaking battle, lay our tired bodies down,
but always wary, always anxious. Envisioning

her, I rewind: the shower window, rivulets are rounding
down streets through the sultry steam,
blinding us to everything but longing announced

by the paths fingers follow down the skin. Between
her lips, a plea for me to come back, she, trembling–
a trembling in the blood-soaked ground, teeming

with us fighters once more. Taking down the emblem.
Break the gates. Now the door, swinging out with a creak–
splinters slice skin, bricks mutilate men at random.

Numb and bleeding, I stumble to my feet.
Everywhere people are spilled on the ground
like cards decked down on the floor. “Retreat!”

someone coughs. Airships drowning it, pound–pound,
pass the city, to the lake, over the haven. Another explosion,
breaking her, me, my word. I can’t go back–can’t rewind.

Can’t rewind–only remember–paint with repeating motions
the impression, stroking the valleys and the troughs.
Last touch. Depict the cruelty done in those moments.

She, lying down with a toe dipped lazily in the slosh
of the old lake, her heel a haven. Paths wound up her shins
and across one cheek, down her back’s hollow, and up off

to the city of her shoulders, knives of the buildings singed
through her spine. The army up her neck approaching
the tower of her hair, the deadly mystery entrenched.

Finished, I leave, blowing out the flames.
Her gaze demands remembrance for the slain.




Originally Published in the 44th Volume of Earthwinds