After The Tower Falls, Death Gives Advice

You tuck the past into your bones,

a kindling of ruin and rain,

a hollow that rings

in the ocean of your heart,

fear skipping

up your spine, punctuated

by the ghost

of every broken promise—

you say,

some things break,

and how could brokenness 

be beautiful?


But here is the lesson

of stained glass,

and trialed hearts,

and bridges

built between souls:

there’s a wild song

still singing in your blood,


listen to the howl of it,

the keening truth

made of unlocked hearts,

the way the wreckage

unfurls into a promise,

light hitting slant

through what caged you

in the dark—

a spark of something

burning bright

of its own accord,


by night-ache,


by grief-hollow

and hopes

that snapped like bones—

that was then

and this is now,

so why can’t it be



Burn the candles, one by one,

until they are clear-flamed,

until the wax runs

a new river, one that worships

the earth and sky

in equal measure, a balance

between new and old, held aloft

by what might be—

imagine it for three heartbeats,

ask yourself,

what if?


Then reach for mortar and pestle,

lay despair gently on the altar,

this burden of weathered heart-songs,

this scorched history

of once-rung bells

and a stumbling dark,

a gift of graceless execution,


and all its smoke trappings,

set down that ruinous tithe—

grind all of it to dust,

scatter it in handfuls to the stars,

and let the wreckage return

to the universe:

you’re worth more than just surviving,

you don’t have to sleep

in the remains

of what shattered you

from yourself—

your imperfect,

wrecked and reckless


is still divine.


Ali Trotta

Ali Trotta is a poet, editor, dreamer, word-nerd, and unapologetic coffee addict. Her poetry has appeared in Uncanny, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Nightmare, Fireside, Strange Horizons, Mermaids Monthly, and Cicada magazines, as well as in The Best of Uncanny from Subterranean Press. She has a poem forthcoming in Asimov’s. Her short fiction has appeared in Curtains, a flash fiction anthology. A geek to the core, she’s previously written TV show reviews for Blastoff Comics, as well as a few personal essays. Ali’s always scribbling on napkins, looking for magic in the world, and bursting into song. When she isn’t word-wrangling, she’s being a kitchen witch, hugging an animal, or pretending to be a mermaid. Follow her on Twitter as @alwayscoffee or subscribe to her TinyLetter. Four of her poems, including three for Uncanny, were Rhysling Award nominees.

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