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Atlas

by Anonymous, 2021

I’ve been sitting here for a long time

So long I can hardly remember a time where I was not

(Sitting, that is)

And I’m sure my leg will be cramped when I stand up

And I’m sure my eyes will droop and beg for sleep soon

But how could I bear to move?

There are castles being built around me

And then torn down

And then built again

And then torn down again

A vicious, fascinating cycle

That goes round and round like a carousel

Kings and Queens are dancing and delegating and declaring war

War over stolen sheep and sugar taxes

And they keep replacing each other one by one

Living in their castles of stone and marble and glass

And bricks and sticks and grass

And still I sit and watch

 

There are flowers growing around me

And then being drowned

And then growing again

And then being drowned again

The torrential rains must have lasted for years now

And I almost long for the castles

(Almost, but not quite)

On the good days bees will buzz and hummingbirds hum

And on the bad ones lightning hits a little too close

Buzzing and humming

Much more rudely than I got from bees and hummingbirds

I haven’t seen anyone in a long time

Not since the last castle was torn down

And the flood is up to my ears now

But how could I bear to move?

 

There are soldiers shooting around me

And then getting shot

And then shooting again

And then getting shot again

I wonder if what comes next is a graveyard

This time I do long for the flowers

But I see faces and skin and lockets with pictures of faraway lovers

And on some selfish days I’m just happy I’m not alone

I wonder what they’re fighting about

But none of them take the time to stop and tell me

And I never take the time to stop them and ask

But I bet there’s a history teacher, one hundred years in the future, who knows

So all I can hope is one day he’ll walk past where I sit

And lean in and tell me every secret these men keep close to their chest

Their chests that spill open far too often

I can barely bear it

And still I sit and watch

 

There are sunbeams circling around me

And then fading into moonbeams

And then rising with the sun again

And then fading into moonbeams again

And they’re tinted red and orange and yellow and green and blue and purple

From the stained glass windows that soar floor to ceiling

Ornaments of the walls I’m enclosed in

A cathedral, now

Named after one saint or another

And I’ve spent so many years watching sinners come to beg to the stars

I wonder if one day I’ll go to Hell

Then the light hits, just right, and a strawberry flavored light washes over me

Tinting my world with rosy retrospection

I wonder if I know too much

If I’d forget it all if I just stood up and walked out the front door

Or maybe the back one that the alter boys used to use to sneak in

After slipping out mid sermon for a smoke

Maybe the world is gentler when you don’t see so much of it

But how could I bear to move?

 

There are crowds of people rushing around me

And then falling asleep

And then rushing again

And then falling asleep again

It seems silly to me to spend all that time asleep

When they could get where they’re going twice as fast if they just kept moving

Since it appears they’re already in such a mad rush to get there

It tastes like chaos and smells like fear

They’re calling to one another with their arms outreached

And I once again finding myself wondering what comes next

It’s obvious they’re desperate to get out of here

Which, historically, has never meant good things for those who stay

(Which, historically, has been me)

And for the first time in many many many many many years

I feel a minute flicker of a wish, a hope, a plea

That someone will call to me

With their arms outreached

And take me with them, somewhere far away from here

But the flicker is extinguished as soon as my mind travels to that faraway place

I’ve never been there

And I’ve always been here

So how could I bear to move?

 

The people become faster

The people become less

I watch the back of every departing human

A miniature figure running into a vast unknown

It’s not so much that I long to leave

More that I long for someone to offer me their hand

Entangle their fingers with mine

And whisk me away

For the dark is all-encompassing

The stars are distant

I am solitary

Yet still I sit and watch.