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ancient wall

Now be silent. Let the one who creates
the words speak. He made the door.
He made the lock.
He also made the key.


A tale I tell three times removed of one
who tried to sell his wares of hope and light.
To every town he went, the guards outside
the walls announced: We have no market
here. The light you shine no one will buy,
goodbye. The merchant saw the gates
were high; he knew no way of scaling them.
With options spent, he brushed the dust from
off his shoes and prayed. May he who irritates
now be silent. Let the one who creates

sketch me the plan of where to go with
these, my wares. One helpful guard had
said, we know what sells. You’ve none of it.
Consent to boredom, though, and near despair,
you’re welcome to come in. I’d sooner eat my
sandal straps, and oftentimes he did, so poor
he was, except for hope and light. By these alone,
he built more wares, then storehouses to keep them
safe, dreaming he could hear beneath the floor
the words speak. He made the door

in such a way that no one with a feeble
or despairing thought could enter. Then
the droughts arrived with floods and plague;
the people who survived fled from the dying
cities knowing nothing of the wares of hope
and light the gatekeepers had blocked
for all lay dead, save one, who with his final
breath confessed: A merchant once I turned
away. His wares, I feared, would cause a shock.
He made the lock,

I’ve heard, to stores of wealth an easy
thing to pick. They bulge with light; you
cannot miss them. So, heavy with despair,
the people traveled to the realm of him
they never met and found great vaults with
wares resplendent, lying unprotected, free
to seize. Yet not a one could reach beyond
the signs that read: Enjoy what you desire.
Who built these walls you think you see,
he also made the key.


Those of you who’ve been visiting Oceantics for a while may recognize the form of this poem as a glosa. If you’d like to know more about this medieval Spanish fixed form, or if you’d like to experience an entire book of glosas, compiled by Alain C. Dexter, please visit Greyhart Press here.

© Elaine Stirling, 2014
Photograph by Alistair Laming/Alamy
from Wikimedia Commons