The Citadel, Melissa Farrell

…The behemoth towers/ A fractured edge of the city/ Forged in its rows of sightless eyes/ And as darkness smears the day/ An elevator grinds and rumbles/Fills its belly with humanity/Radios and televisions fuse/In a babbled soundtrack/
From a selection of poems titled The Citadel
‘Whilst the night deepens/ The mortals within/ Fortify against the incubus of the dark’


The behemoth towers

A fractured edge of the city

Forged in its rows of sightless eyes

And as darkness smears the day

An elevator grinds and rumbles

Fills its belly with humanity


Radios and televisions fuse

In a babbled soundtrack

With the crackle and spit of pans

That dance and leap in ritual

Above the fetor and clabber

Of yellowing stoves


Somewhere a baby cries

Dogs bark

A plane whines overhead


Whilst the night deepens

The mortals within

Fortify against the incubus of the dark

And when heavy muses surface

The dreamless and the empty

Fill in a chimera of icons.



There is one within who sits

A reluctant companion to the night

Circled by cobras of smoke and regret

She rolls another cigarette

Dwells on her creaseless face

Her adamant and tight body

Plundered by the years

The hands of time dragging

Straining and stretching her


Into another shape

She no longer reads time

In the faces of people or of clocks

For time is no longer on her side


She waits for him

He who is plunging his memory

Into a bracing splash of the past

Whetting dry frustration

With the potent promises of youth.



He lies

Bible pyjama’d close

Dreaming of knock-knocking

Peddling his brand of religion

On glossy pamphlets printed in China

Converting his way to paradise

While Armageddon looms


She summons him now

Through the screened door

And the deep bee-drone


Of a distant lawnmower

Provides background harmony

As her weeping hair

Sullies his body

With wanting and pain


His sin sputters and spills

Into the yielding mattress

That holds him tenderly

Under a heavy crucifix

Rigid against the peeling wall

While in the kitchen

The obscene dishes nag to be washed.



She drifts

Creamy and bubbled

In his party-hatted

Hip hip hooray love


He suspends her

Dulls her senses in fairy-floss solace

Pads the enormity of hundreds and thousands

In soft white bread


Still she yearns for the cut and slice of life

The ache that scratches pen to paper

As words come serrated and sharp

Stained with reality


In the slumber before dawn

She dreams him away

Before sweet-toothed and longing

She calls for him

To float once again

A lounging marshmallow

On the hot chocolate of his love.



A shrine of burnished trophies

And effigies suspended in frames and time

Conjure a haunting apparition of her daughter

One year in the ground


Her dreaming moves with a moaning wind

Through the graveyard until she watches herself

Dusting the plastic flowers that hold their shape

Against the hard glint of black marble


The polished surface interns her

In a back to front present

Where time twists and contorts

Uncanny and out of order


Crumpled and invalid her will lies

In the bottom drawer of her being

While her empty womb

Frets for the forsaken babies


This grave calls and claims her

Yet she must linger until her name

Lies in the hollows of a headstone

To be uttered in silence by a passing stranger


Enshrouding her is a vision

Of the ground taking her under

As her daughter holds wilting flowers above

In the melting colours of a sinking sun


She grieves for the earthbound birds

Whose feathers send the dust skyward

Summoning mirages of ghosts

In the clear morning light.



Through the back door of his mind

He seeks to read the shifting signs

Of her artistry that lies in covert stains

Or inscribed in the soft sands that surround him


She is the black ink of his secret imagery

Indelible marks smudged in his unknown

Surging now as dancing signifiers

In the bewitching hour of his dreaming


When the day slides through shallow curtains

His thinking slowly rises

While wheelie bins

Sprawled open-mouthed

Like fat ancient Greeks

Purged of night-time ritual

Lie dew splashed and winking

In the sane morning sun.


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Melissa Farrell

With a background in performing arts, Melissa Farrell has written a number of short plays for theatre, as well as performed her poetry at various venues and festivals. Her postgraduate study at Macquarie University is allowing her to indulge in her enthusiasm for writing as she hones her skills and continues to explore the craft through its many manifestations.