Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
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Portraits of Flame

by Tyler McCurry

Flickering daggers, when they consume,
Resemble portraits of adults as youths
Portraits that recall the humble beginning of life.
This is what I discovered in the rubble,
As the lone survivor of my decimated village.

More homes pass at every step.
Thatched straw roofs have grown orange hair
Which waves and undulates in the wind,
Yet burn the balding wooden scalps.
Open mouths spew amber vomitus.

Before each dagger engulfed a mother,
The portal in her mind flicks open
To reveal a small girl long forgotten.
Playing amidst the swelling plains
Nature’s artist has repainted with tar.

The mother returns to early childhood,
When once a babe herself she scampered
Around an intimate kitchen, stew cooking in a pot.
Always naked as the sun while her pallid skin glows
Like fireflies, though we peasants never wash.

She usually had dolls made of straw
Or grass, or dirt, all common here.
Giving them pretend homes much-aspired.
A life the little actress knows she cannot have,
Only fit to bear sickly children in filth.

What do those portraits of the flame
Typically make a man recollect?
Sitting down with father, knuckles scarred.
“Son, always be a gentleman,” he instructs.
Though protecting reputations sometimes requires force.

The residents of Meadac now
Needn’t worry about dolls and what’s masculine.
Only memories remain in that scorched place,
And until the very late noon hours, they will blaze.
Infernos gorged on blackening bones.

Men and women who once were children
Dreamed of a life outside this rule,
Only to grow up and abandon trivial wishes,
Settle into the ignominy of a mundane existence
Flames trigger their deserved release.

In the battle’s final moments
A sword impaled my vulnerable breast.
Somehow finding heart-flesh between ribs
Breath goes short; I stumble and collapse
Reaching tongues of orange, take me.

Let the fire’s portrait become my penance.

© 2011 Tyler McCurry

Tyler McCurry is a 21-year-old student at Johnson County Community College in Kansas and has enjoyed reading Science Fiction his entire life. At present he has been writing original fantasy for four years and has recently taken an interest in poetry.

Find more by Tyler McCurry in the Author Index.

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