Written by Adele Gardner / Artwork by Lee Ann Barlow
Oblivion's Queen
Floating, floating.

Misty Avalon looms up before me; before my face,
my eyes; reaching out to claim my very
being.
      
Ahhhhhhh!
                         
A scream. I heard A scream—did you?  
Was it Isolde? Elaine?
Or was it me—but all my own?
                                       
Awake!

The blessed reality of the dream unfolds.
Is this false too, this room?  Oh,
May I not have memory of these?

The misty traces, still before my eyes;
the draperies of dreams hang heavy round my mind
though I awake.
                     
Now. It is now. They are calling.
I must arise. Should I answer? You must tell me—you,
who dare not think in riddles, lest you offer me my key.
                                      
Why must I sing in darkness? What words are these?
My cry for help warbles into birdsong, twists to a foreign tongue,
mealy gibberish I cannot understand, yet with such haunting melody it bears the ring of omen. I must know.
                                            
I have but one question
For my mind, that coiled serpent; but one question,
deadly sphinx, left unanswered. I dare not ask, lest they die—
my friends, my king, my brother, slumbering past death,
not lying in raven-picked fields—as all the others are.

Yet if I ask not, here we all lie, chained. So let me pass!
We'll rot as magic fades, more each year, as I awake, awake,
to struggle with mind, with memories like rotted lace.  
I hold the lantern, prowl from room to room, seeking one remembered face—
one open eye. Their bodies twist in tortured slumber, faces gray,
but I cannot undo what I cannot remember.
                                                    
So it comes to this,
mad wizard, on my knees. My altar to myself among the trees.
The waves hollow me as I rock, rock, and beseech you:
                                                            
Who am I?




“Oblivion’s Queen” first appeared in
Penumbra, Volume I, Issue 11, August 2012.
THE LORELEI SIGNAL
Cat-loving cataloging librarian Adele Gardner (www.gardnercastle.com) has had over 425
poems, stories, illustrations, and essays in Strange Horizons, Deep Magic, Daily Science
Fiction, Pedestal Magazine, PodCastle, and more. Adele's poetry book, Dreaming of Days in
Astophel, though out of print with the publisher, is still available from the author. Gardner is
a Clarion West Writers Workshop graduate with master's degrees in English literature and
library science who serves as literary executor for father, mentor, and namesake Delbert R.
Gardner.