“Tour of the Castle” by Merridawn Duckler is a dark, eerie piece that makes the reader think they understand it, only for them to reconsider everything. The poem uses its passage of time to switch the story from top to bottom, and all with one, simple line. With that line, the piece is transformed from a poem about an accident on an abandoned, country road, to one that sends shivers down your spine.
The poem follows a car driving down the road in the middle of the night, hitting a red-haired woman with her car as she attempts to escape her life. Her life, as the text indicates, is filled with grief and pain, and her only chance of escape meeting a tragic end. The driver didn’t see her in the middle of the road, and so the traditionally fairytale-esque setting turns into a compelling modern tragedy. That is the interpretation the reader can make after noting the passage of time throughout the piece.
The fifth stanza indicates Duckler’s use of the passage of time: “Our car door slams against the rain” The next line then says: “sweeps the neglected garden like a backward clock.” It could mean nothing, just a metaphor to stamp the scene onto the page, or it could mean everything. A backward clock, sending the passage of time backwards, and making the reader rethink the beginning sequence of the piece. The beginning stanza, detailing a young woman following a car for miles, immediately gets deterred by “Tour of the Castle” seemingly describing a dark castle in which the women get tortured. At first, this may seem confusing to the reader, since one moment we were following a car, and then the lives of these new characters. The backwater clock, however, could offer an explanation. The last stanza, tragically, ends with the car hitting the woman. If the reader follows the clue given with the clock, they could infer that the first stanza is actually the second-to-last one in the poem. Three stanzas make the reader feel closer to the women, the last two bringing those new feelings to their knees as the young woman dies, trying to escape her castle, unfortunately coming into contact with a driver who didn’t see her red hair in the road at the dead of night.
“Tour of the Castle” by Merridawn Duckler plays with the very passage of time and the readers’ hearts, by sprinkling clues throughout the piece to hint at a rearranged order of events. Events that form a dark, tragic tale, of four women looking for any sign of help to escape their castle. A twist on a tale as old as time, ending with the car’s headlights meeting the woman on the bridge on the lonely, black, forest road. If this piece can make a traditionally prose reader such as myself feel excited about poetry, then “Tour of the Castle” is a must-read in the seventh issue of LEVITATE Magazine.
Inti Navia editor-in-chief and contributing editor in Creative Nonfiction
Read this piece in Issue 7 of Levitate Magazine!