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Charlotte Radley

Charlotte Radley (1824-1852)
by Ashley Marie Bergner

Having ended my mortal existence,
I now haunt the lonely graveyard,
nothing but a shadow of my former self.
Yet I have lost little,
for a shadow I have always been,
even while living.
I was never really a part of the town—
I was always an outsider,
like a person trapped inside a house
and forced to view the world from a window,
able to see it in startling, vivid color
but unable to experience it for herself.
Too quiet, I lacked the courage to share my soul,
and I faded into the background of the town
long before I faded from this earth.
In church each Sunday, people would ask,
How are you?
without taking the time to find out who I really was.
Though at first I felt the aching stab of loneliness,
slowly it diminished into a paralyzing numbness.
I gradually withdrew into my secluded little house,
finally ceasing to interact with the townspeople altogether.
They called me a recluse,
whispering things about me as they walked by
because they thought I could not hear what they said.
It was the first time in my life
anyone had ever really noticed me.

Most people live in dread of death, but I never did.
I longed for death, that final and complete loss of self,
where all selves become one.
But now my life is over, and as an immortal shadow,
I drift among the gravestones,
I have discovered the truth that all mortals will eventually learn:
there is nothing to look forward to in death.
My greatest pain in life
has now become my eternal reality.
A shadow in life, a shadow in death,
that not even the moon can see. 

* * *

Ashley Marie Bergner is from Wichita, Kansas, and she is currently employed as a journalist at The Newton Kansan newspaper. In her spare time, she enjoys writing poetry, fantasy, and science fiction; watching movies; playing the harp; and writing an entertainment blog called "Box Office Buzz" at

What inspires you to write and keep writing?
I love to write, especially anything to do with fantasy and science fiction. I think it's fun to be able to imagine and create new worlds and bring them to life on the page.