The Tower

by Stephen Cole

We are always at a distance. Far off, past shoreline, past waves, past everything, a rocky shore; unknown, unmarked, hunkered down just over the horizon. The tower dominates. Five pennons snap and curl away from the setting sun. The tower rises, white and tapering, from colonnaded base to colonnaded top. We are hidden in the shadows of the arches.

How sharp the light! How stark these shadows. We are spies on this barren island: we watch. We listen to foreign words, dream-tongues, shutter-snap of state secrets and betrayal. They are met in the sunlight, the pair of them, oblique, unilluminated; their shadows stretch along the hard-packed dirt and their faces are obstinate and shadowed. The light is flat, harsh and unhelpful; we see nothing useful. The tower vibrates with whiteness. The red jewel of the roof mocks us. How clearly we see it, but not what we have been sent to see.

We watch, but do not approach. We are exiles, outsiders, isolates, as close to the scene as yesterday and as ineffably apart. We conspire with ourselves, against ourselves. We are at war with society. We are spies, perverts, murderers and journalists, frozen in this eternal regard.

The sun sets; night descends. We cross the courtyard, empty now, and place our foot upon the hidden stair. The tower waits for our unclosing eyes.