the lady of shalott

by Rowan M., 15

Pain and beauty are all one

As the fair damsel awaits repose.

The chain, set free,

Sinks into murky shallows.

She looks out and sees her future with perfect clarity

As the boat drifts forward.

A land of marvels to never be cherished.

A moment of liberation to fade too hastily.

Fate shall come as it has been told.

She bears her defiance and all it brings.

Her visage is of elegance and sorrow:

Lip quivering with regret not fear,

Eyes closed.

Falling back into the quilted cage that once ensnared her,

Smoke dissolves into the air.

One candle.

She says goodbye to her body

Full of anguish and labor,

Devoid of a soul.

Two candles.

She says goodbye to the man

Who pulled her from her prison,

Bestowing the gift of feeling.

She begins to say goodbye to the world

She longed to know.

For it looks so different 

From the reflection she knew.

Even with eyes shut,

She finally sees its wonder,

As reeds brush together in soft gales

And tiny creatures scuttle across water lilies.

However, the end did not come.

Her breast still rose and fell with breath.

She moved forward to find the third candle

Still ablaze.

Little Silver, New Jersey

Notes from our interns on selecting this piece: This poem is lit by candlelight, guiding us through a solemn moment on a boat. Soft word choices juxtaposed stark realities. At times, it threatens to extinguish—but we end with a glimmer of light and hope.