for Nathan Shepherdson
It starts with a sun. A cutlass of light
slashes at your head & runs your shadow
up your body’s length; a pirate’s black flag.
When embracing your lover, your shadows
fall in love again & meld into each other
like droplets of dark water pooling.
Shadows are where the old gods took refuge
hiding in plain sight. They are immortal so
long as there is a body of faith. You are not.
Your shadow sticks to you like a pilot fish
or a lamprey. You sustain it & take it for
a ride. Your shadow cannot carry you.
Gravity does not affect your shadow. It is
not a thing as we know it. It does not have
molecules, only the shadows of molecules.
The fundamental laws that govern
the universe, do not govern it. You are
the event horizon to your own black hole.
When you look up at the night sky
the dark bits you see between the
pinpricks of stars are not shadows.
Shadows are not dark matter.
Shadows are not dark energy.
Shadows are their own quanta.
Your shadow is shackled to you by
leg-irons of light. At night your shadow
escapes only to be caught by dawn.
At dawn your shadow lies around
you like the negative of the chalked
outline of a freshly murdered body.
Often other people’s shadows will fall
across yours. There are no sparks as in
the flesh. Only a dark meshing of gears.
Your shadow can walk up walls & cliff-
faces. They are like beetles; electrons are
powerless to keep them from climbing.
In the late afternoon your shadow mutates.
They are dark furred lycanthropes that grow
three times your size & stalk behind you.
Shadows fear total eclipses of the sun;
totality is their version of Armageddon.
They are often black-bagged by the moon.
The sun’s atmosphere, its pink corona
is your shadow’s idea of God. It’s gaseous
core is a searing translation of heaven.
Clouds trick shadows by making them vanish
into the earth’s top hat. Who’s to say where
the magician’s cape ends & its shadow begins?
Your shadow has limbs, a head, a trunk
but no tongue. It is noiseless like Charon’s
black sail that propels him across the river Styx.
Your shadow likes to pose with you in photos.
In old age your shadow will even try to prop you up.
In death, your shadow folds around you like a dark wing.