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THE TOWER — story in three prose poems and pictures

Book I  —  The Law

Geometrically, a perfect house. It could support itself at the most. And would need the mercy of this world, and to be allowed to stand in its shelter. But a house supposed to stand for two thousand years must have power to be able to stand against the world.

I am not the slave of geometrical perfection. What do I build from. A tree. And why. Because a tree blocks the sunlight when alive but nourishes flames when dead. Therefore I build from a tree.

But the tree that you see is not the tree that is. The tree that is is beneath the ground. For the trunk cannot live without the roots, but the roots can live without the trunk. The roots absorb nourishment from decay, slops, waste, death. Therefore I build like a tree, from a tree, and found my house in the graveyard. For what the tree builds, ash will not consume.

And why should I not build upon those who have gone before me. Build on their sweat and tears. Build on the ruins of the past. Why should I therefore not build in this very place. In the graveyard. On the dead.

But above the ground, what do I build from above the ground. From stone. And why. Because stone stands up to time, stands up to life, stands still. For a house that is supposed to stand for two thousand years need to stand up to time and life. Stand dead against life and put it to death in its shadow. To nourish its roots which are nourished by decay. And the shadows, take special note of the shadows. For the form of the stone serves only the shadows and these shadows need to stand for two thousand years.

And what is it that I am building. A tower. And why. Because like the tree it casts the longest shadow. Reaches far although it stands still and it towers over the life around it. Which seeks its coolness to die.

And then what. How do I ensure that the tower will stand for two thousand years. I take a man and bind him to the tower by his blood so that he binds his progeny to the tower by bonds of blood. And I do not suck his blood so quickly that he cannot bear progeny to take over before he dies and I can drink him dry, death, where he lies buried beneath the north wall. And so it shall be for two thousand years that life shall live in my shadow.


In the shadow, the shelter, beneath the southern wall, the flowers have just bloomed. Feebly they stretch up towards the light. These are the first flowers of spring. Easter flowers. Showing my house their gratitude for its shelter by lending it their golden colour. The colour of light. And the shrubs on the graves of my forefathers beneath the northern wall are beginning to bud.

The first birds of spring are beginning to tend to their old nesting-place beneath the eaves. And as far as I can see the two young that hatched last year are beginning to tend to a new nest. Hopefully more young will survive than last year. I buried three then beneath the wall. Thus life awakens and enfolds my house. This noble building. The cornerstone of my life.

For generation upon generation we have cared for it and it has rewarded us abundantly. It does not fail us. In its geometrical perfection it stands up to all weather, all fashions, currents and movements. Is eternal. So great is its strength that we its humble servants are in effect unnecessary to it. But by our service we are allowed to dwell in it to stand up to bad weather. And to rest in its cool shadow in the calm of good days.

We are proud of our tower. Its age and strength grant us certainty about how aptly it has been built. No work of man has stood up to its like. For almost two thousand years it has stood immovable in the turbulence of life. It cannot be the work of mortal men. High above us it has been raised. In its perfection it is a signpost in our life. Showing us how to build our lives. Like it, we should stand firm against every force that desires to destroy us. Like it, we should tower over our surroundings and give shelter to the beautiful but uproot the bad in our shadow. It shows us that our life with it has a purpose. A purpose beyond other mortal beings.


The purpose must be nurtured and defended. Not everyone has been capable of being allowed to live in the tower. Their incomprehension and jealousy are understandable. They need to be guided. But not everyone is prepared to listen.

Plagues beset us in countless monstrous shapes. The beasts of night advance and need to be uprooted. Weeds need to be torn up. And men of little understanding are jealous of the perfection of the tower and want to destroy it. They must be stopped. If persuasion fails, they need to be removed. It is unbearable that beings roam about unable to rest until the tower is no more. For eternal though it is by nature, it is threatened by human jealousy and imperfection. Threatened by the beasts of the night, the weeds of life and plagues. These must be uprooted. Blood shed that the tower may stand as a shelter for the beautiful life that flourishes in its shadow. In testimony to its maker. In testimony to the law on which our life is based.

Though blood drips from my hands on to the flowers beneath the wall and its walls are smeared with stenching death this is necessary for the preservation of the truth which it enshrines. And all things that I put to death I bury beneath its walls so that good will come of their death and from them grow new life which in the shelter of the tower will have the chance to live by its law and die to its greater glory.

And I give my sons and daughters that blood to drink to seal that pact of blood. A pact that for almost two thousand years has flowed about our feet and marked our footprints on this place. And ever more shall do so.


“For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together.“  Matthew 24:28

© Bragi Halldorsson


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