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  Table of contents Issue Eighteen THE WATCHING HOUR


I stood beneath the streetlamp light
And cast a shadow tall:
They say that while the pious sleep,
You’ll hear the devils call.

They call this time the witching hour
And shelter from the moon,
Who’ll twist their limbs like marionettes:
No man or sea’s immune.

As though their Holy Holiest
Possessed no greater power
Than painted lightbulbs in the sky
During the witching hour.

But don’t the angels stand on guard,
With platinum panoply?
Behind the sunstrewn lightstrings in
Single-file company?

I stood beneath the streetlamp light,
Safe distance from the sky,
And peekaboo’d the alleyways
’Til something caught my eye.

In the moonshade beside a church,
A thin-haired pale man stood
And looming between him and me,
An ogre in a hood.

He stalked the teeth-chattering man,
Was soon within arm’s length,
And what the ogre lacked in grace
He surely had in strength.

A blade jutted from the beast’s hand
As if it were a limb,
A lion, vulture, predator
Singing a bloodlust hymn.

The ogre must have heard my gasp,
Toward me he cast a glance:
His eyes were jaw-dropped screaming mouths
That gripped me in a trance.

I didn’t run, away or toward,
And neither could I swoon.
My feet were plastered to the street,
My soul a distant moon.

The knife aglint in moonlight grinned,
Towards the man’s chest it lunged.
The pale man matched my fearful face
As toward his grave he plunged.

I watched the blood rain from the knife,
The steam of his last breath.
Beneath the ogre’s shadow wide,
He knew the sting of death.

The ogre turned to me once more,
His sated eyes did search,
And finding nought to fear in me,
He fled behind the church.

The angels all seemed to disperse
Like a threatened band of crows,
And God was gone when the dust cleared
Like a president deposed.

I’d watched him fall, I’d watched him die,
Through my hands slipped his life:
As guilty to the juried stars
As if I’d held the knife.

Now the angels cross their arms,
Eagle wings akimbo.
Infallible bystanders, all:
I wait my turn in limbo.

I stand beneath the streetlamp light,
In fork-tongued thoughts I pray
To those who wait beyond the moon
A million miles away.

I call this time the watching hour,
I watched in helpless light:
A painted soul beneath the lamp
That fateful moonlit night.

Two choices are our lot in life,
Two paths that we may go:
To be an angel here on Earth
Or else devil Below.




M.E. Lerman is an editor by day, writer by night, amateur musician by turns, and kitsch and vinyl record enthusiast in whatever spare time's left over. His short story "The Long Hard Road Out of Hell" was featured in the British Fantasy Society Journal, and he has also been published in venues as diverse as Blunderbuss Magazine, Poetica Magazine, the Jewish Literary Journal, Belleville Park Pages, and Danse Macabre. His Twitter handle is @NuGodOfHellFire.

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