Requiem for an Empire

“Always, always you recede through the evenings
toward the twilight erasing statues.”
          —”Clenched Soul,” Pablo Neruda


I remember you with my soul clenched,

realizing the ground has given way.

This façade crumbles, a life envisioned

becomes a ruin before its construction—

our vast empire founded on untruth and decay.


I remember you with my mind blockaded,

every exit patrolled by the ghost of us.

Trapped within this hostile land

I hide in the shadows of monuments

dedicated to a god that no longer exists.


I remember you with my body broken,

blood that would have spilled for you

wasted on barren earth, boiling in the heat

of the sun that once polished your face,

but now blisters my eyes as I remember.


As I gaze upon our remnants,

sand claiming what was once ours,

I recall those earth-ending words—

they caught like bones in your throat,

until they lurched out, laying waste.


I stand here, in remembrance of our empire,

devastation ruling my heart, your name

treading the edge of my tongue

as I force myself to stone, yet crack.

I am all that has survived—


A crumbling statue at the center of nothing.


by James Thomas





They wake despite themselves,

backs still turned, each spine an abatis against intruders.


First-sleep is broken by the witching

time of night; Circadian servants rebel against their ruler.


Neither remembers why they’d fought,

or is certain that they ever had, confounded by dreams.


Wheel and pinion turn in unison:

mechanical precision, oneiric delirium.


Wordless mouths blindly advance,

mashing together with  sacramental stress.


Hands pass over skin like braille

their serpentine bodies  in blissful anguish.


Order’s simulacrum born

of bedlam: zealots under goose-down.


They offer sacrifices

to each other, prayers, seeds.


Unburdened and disarmed,

they end, captivated, entangled,


And drift

to sleep—their spirits cleansed, their flesh unclean.


by James Thomas






I dream of a corpse lying before me—

rigid and staring, eyes fogged over,

mouth tightened to a grin—

a warm gesture from my dead-ringer.


I smile back at this cold me, my knife

sliding down his chest like a lover’s

hand, lustful precision arousing flesh

to reveal its taunting secrets.


He opens up to me—a host of maladies

malign my inquiries—each adamant

about their role in my friend’s demise.

So I ask my corpse, “what killed us?”


His grin is less welcoming now, ribcage

glistening in fluorescent light, I dig

for answers. My knife nicks his liver,

like an eagle’s beak, over and over.


In the silent room I hear my own heart

beating back the stillness of death.

For an instant, it seems his heart beats

in time with mine, but no. I continue.


I grasp his heart, press it in unison

with my own—a last-ditch effort

of a  man wishing to become

Lazarus, but my prayer falls unheard.


I set my tools aside.

I glance back at my pale face—the eternal

grin mocking my  fear,

happier dead than I will ever be.


by James Thomas



James Thomas is a Senior at the University of North Texas studying Creative Writing.

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