How Does the Story End?

Like a ghost,

a man already dead–

the dread

of knowing others bled

and he was complicit

in acts morally,

if not legally,


Would he be called enabler,

or traitor?

The victors tell the story,

when truth is denied,

then histories lie.

But his eyes betrayed–

me too, they said,

a clue

to what he was thinking–

that he was lost, sinking

lower and lower,

flowing out with the tide

(conquer, divide)–

he tried to divert the course

of fate—

perhaps too late.

And now he only watches

wondering how and why he was chosen.

Like his ancestors there

against the plaster

on the wall—


in the famed paint of dead masters.


For dVerse, Amaya asked us to take two quotes from different sources and use one for the first sentence on a poem, and the other for the last sentence. I used Munich, a new novel by Robert Harris, which is about the Munich Agreement of 1938. Despite knowing the outcome, it was still a bit of a thriller.  I also used a phrase from Maya Angelou’s, “California Prodigal.”

“In the shadows, at the back of the study Hartmann watched it all without seeing, his long face blank and ashy with exhaustion—like a ghost, though Legat, like a man already dead.”

–Robert Harris, Munich, Knopf: New York, 2018, p. 251


“Under the gaze of his exquisite

Sires, frozen in the famed paint

Of dead masters. Audacious

Sunlight cast defiance

At their feet.”

Maya Angelou, “California Prodigal





29 thoughts on “How Does the Story End?

  1. There’s a natural rhythm to this, like the course of one’s inevitable fate, no matter how hard he tries to alter it. I wonder how much we are tied to our ancestors, sins and all. Many today would say it is a duty to answer for them, but I just don’t know. How can we take credit for another’s actions, be they good or bad? Perhaps we just have to answer for our own. Great poem, Merril, and the quotes were great choices.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Amaya–and for the great prompt.
      Yes, I don’t think we can take credit for things our ancestors may or may not have done, but perhaps an awareness? Perhaps an acknowledgement that our lives are better or worse and others are better or worse because of what our ancestors did. I guess, too, then if someone did something wonderful, then maybe we should try to emulate or live up to that, but if they did horrible things, then we should make sure we don’t follow the same path. Now you have me thinking! 🙂

  2. Love the rhyme that takes the reader by surprise. An this beginning is epic:
    “Like a ghost,
    a man already dead–
    the dread
    of knowing others bled
    and he was complicit
    in acts morally,
    if not legally,
    Too many politicians nowadays are too close for comfort to this portrayal. The good news is they still have time. The bad news is they don’t/can’t/won’t do anything with that time…

    • Thank you so much.
      Yes, you are right about the politicians. As I was reading the novel, I couldn’t help but think of present day. And then when I was writing the poem, in my mind, I was kind of imagining the German character in the book in 1938, but at the same time, politicians today.

  3. This was such a fascinating compilation with the Oracle inspiring you. It would be challenging to choose two quotes (and be able to visualize them blending beginning and ending parts), with the words given from the Oracle.

    • Thank you, Robin. The Oracle was not involved (to my knowledge 😉 ) with this one. I chose the quotations and created the poem around them. It would be quite a challenge to use the quotations and the words from the Oracle.

  4. First of all, I agree with Amaya that the rhythm and the rhyme evoke a sense of predetermined inevitability, but I am encouraged that your protagonist at least tried to change things, even if it was too late. Therein lies the hope that is in this poem, perhaps the awareness you mentioned in the thread with Amaya above. So well done, skilled and poignant marriage of form and content, bringing out a feeling with the depth of both our dreams and our regrets.

    • Thank you very much, Lona, for your kind words. Yes, I was thinking the protagonist was trying. I think people (and motivations, issues, etc.) are often very complex. And thank you for dreams and regrets.

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