Within the shadow of the fortress wall,
I stand agape; such gross, exquisite scale.
My bulging eyes attempt to take in all
But sadly, unsurprisingly, they fail.
Hot inspiration spikes; aroused, I call,
“Wake up, you bricks, speak up, recount your tale.”
I push my ear against their rugged stone;
They chant their story to my ear alone:

The piercing clink of hammer, rock and nail,
The groans of workers straining in the heat,
Unfalteringly slaving through harsh hail,
Rough rain, sharp snow, stark sun, and slicing sleet,
Until, a thing no army could assail,
It stands, impregnable, a noble feat;
The ingenuity of engineers
To last as strong as ever through the years.

I wander up the stairs, amazed, upbeat,
My mounting spirit just about to burst
From fresh excitement, knowing that my feet
Here, through these ancient halls, are not the first,
That centuries saw a million soles beat
This very floor in times of best and worst.
I trace those soles up to a post and draw
A panting breath of wonder, joy, and awe.

A mystifying landscape beams and broods.
Arranged in likeness of a grisly spine,
A dark and daunting mountain range protrudes
Through looming colonnades of spruce and pine
Whose misty groves once crawled with multitudes
That dared to test the might of Königstein,
That plotted months in vengeful secrecy
Amid dense forest tenebrosity.

Now, I’m no longer me, no longer here,
No longer now, but cast in centuries back,
A stationed sentry, gripping on his spear
With paling knuckles, eyeing country track,
Convinced, lips chewed, that armies will appear
From foggy woods to mount the huge attack.
I picture them, upon the rising sun,
In roaring swarms, rush, glinting weapons drawn.

Beset with thirst, I venture to our well,
Grown thick with vine and oozing watercress,
Where, with deep panting, quaffing slurps, I quell
My cracking thirst on nature’s blessedness,
Then stare, amazed, at how it worms to Hell,
No point untouched by Saxon edifice,
When, suddenly, with glorious alarm,
Bells clamor, warning of approaching harm.

I scramble to my parapet, hand taut
Upon my spear, heart pounding in my chest,
And, petrified, gape at the juggernaut
Advancing, loud with rancorous unrest.
I feel my body jitter, head grow hot.
I kiss my cross with frightened, fervent zest,
Prepared to shed my honorable blood
For Saxon kings, for Saxony, for God.

“Aim, fire!” Arrows hiss like locust hordes,
An ecstasy of scrambling horror peaks.
The shrilly chafing shimmer of drawn swords
Drains every speck of color from my cheeks.
My twisted tongue flops through a thousand words
And frantic, frothing phrases as it seeks
To clump whatever hasty orison
My terror-stricken soul can draw upon.

Shouts, yells, and bangs, demented whimpering.
I dizzy from the nauseating dread.
Men scream, blood pours, shields bang, flames rage, swords swing.
I feel a fainting flitter in my head.
Then, suddenly, a vicious, snapping sting
Zips through my neck. My vision swells with red.
I reel, eyes writhing, darting up to God,
Then, wheezing, rasping, drop, choked up on blood.

I start from that unsettling dream, cold sweat
Pearled on my brow, fear tensing on my face,
Transported from that fateful parapet
Back to my time, my body and my place.
I look out at the villages, afret
With modern life’s smooth, mechanistic pace,
Hosts of belligerent and zealous knights
Replaced with cars and soothing neon lights.



Gleb Zavlanov is a young poet and songwriter living in New York City. He is a 2017 graduate of Townsend Harris High School. His YouTube channel can be found here.

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6 Responses

  1. Leo Zoutewelle

    Gleb, this is totally fascinating, yes, gripping! Quite an accomplishment of embroidering the present with the past like that. Congratulations.

    • Gleb Zavlanov

      Dear Mr. Zoutewelle,

      Thank you for reading. I am very glad you found it gripping and fascinating.


  2. Anna J Arredondo

    Gleb, I enjoyed reading your poem very much. You did a marvelous job conveying the unique experience one may have at historic sites when taking the time to really listen to what the bricks have to say. I felt transported with you, and was relieved to return to the present in the final stanza!

    In S2 L3, the final word ought to be spelled “hail”.

    • Gleb Zavlanov

      Dear Ms. Arrendondo,

      Thank you. I know I accomplished my task as a poet when a reader felt transported with me through the stanzas.


  3. Sumaita Hasan

    Gleb! I don’t know if you remember me from Townsend Harris. I just found an old poem you wrote that I have for some reason (I think it was part of some club thing). Regardless, I was reminded of your talent and this led me here. Wishing you well! You still write beautifully!

    • Gleb Zavlanov

      Hi Sumaita,

      Yes, I still remember you, the MVP of the Classic.

      I am flattered that you still remember my poetry and have found yourself here.

      Thank you.

      I hope you are doing well.



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