Pompeii

Margaret Wang

It is listening to evening serenades when your perfectly maintained octaves

wince and fold into bone-damp sevenths. Intervals, it seems, strive

for dissonance and reverberations

pierced by chalky nails, uncut. You find this deterioration

startling—yet you cherish broken seismic waves, so you let the

figures passing by scowl into your frosted window. You know

even anonymous disapproval will never be enough to stop this nightly ritual.


You were baptized in ash that fell from the sky; they named you

after the crimson sun that dripped molten apologies 

onto your outstretched palms—you’ve worn the burn marks well.

Golden altars embedded in your sleeves make no secret of their presence. They 

are unforgiving, so that your every gilded gesture, though delicate as always, stings 

of something unfinished. Perhaps repressed—

or hidden away? Viewing the eclipse, longing

thrums in your throat, ceaseless melodies haunting neighboring dreams and lingering

into morning. They taste of bitter surprise encased in unspent time and stopped starlight, grey from centuries’ worship. Until then, you retouch memories like they’re defunct

paintings, flawed by soot and ageless stains of faith. You remove

images of you in ghostly smiles, deepen seraphic shadows, darken angels’ halos. 

They glare at you through soulless eyes, all innocence and rosy cheeks and curling locks

of the highest order. Praise thee, you whisper.


You are salted wine from country vineyards, pungent on that

saccharine spot of your tongue. Crystalline pillars stand morose, anchoring grandiose

arena spectators, never satiated despite drinking in

blood-soaked sand. Bronze-skinned slave brings platters of food, he

glimmers in cultivated irony. His master roars in overindulgence, swigs from

silver-plated goblets; he retreats. You are glad

he does not wear rejection proudly, yet glad he remains 

alive. Later the world makes a mockery for your sake, and you learn the meaning 

of divine intervention, as temples refine themselves but collapse in turn as all your

patron gods flee. Fallen gladiators can’t mask a copper collar, dull in death 

but tight as always. There’s always another master, just as harsh, just as 

inescapable. And though stolen coins jingle bluntly in your pocket; who can you liberate 

now? You free yourself in the end—selfishness keeps you from starving,

and leave the city behind.


Six-stringed lute was stolen from silence tonight,

and you immortalize a discarded past. They never found you, little thief, for who would 

search powdered bones for abandoned purity?

About the Author

Margaret Wang is a high school student living in Arizona. She can often be found spacing out, having multiple identity crises, contemplating the universe, or engaging in similarly productive activities.

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