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Sick of Shadows

Achromatic

too many shades of grey

to tell the shapes apart

a series of blurry photographs

awkward group shots in greyscale

outlining a story almost

forgotten, a grey area

where everyone was wrong and smiling

or right and in a grey mood

now the pictures are deteriorating

details going grey as his hair

and his grey matter isn't

what it used to be either but

it doesn't matter who chose whom

all cats are grey at night

the men in grey suits escorted us

to the quiet woods, the middle of nowhere

we raced like greyhounds

through the grass and between the trees

if his orange juice had some grey goose

well it doesn't matter much now

those are the memories that stay

where the skies and trees have color

so deep I thought something

was wrong with my eyes at first

he laughed at me, shook his head

"never forget what seeing clear is like"

Edge of the Sand

When Joachim came to the edge of the desert,

the castle that awaited him was so dark he thought it a shadow.

He had been fighting the bitter, stiff desert winds so long

he didn't know what to do when faced with a cool, dark space.

The stone walls were smooth as river rocks

showing no wear from the desert storms.

The rooms were furnished with thick cushions and tapestries

rich woods and heavy books, all bearing symbols

that Joachim thought were familiar but could not recognize.

At first he was alone, with only the voice of the walls for company.


The shock of another person's steps echoing in the halls panicked him.

He stared a long time before the puzzle of the man's face became clear.

This was my fault, his father said,

and I swore I would find you and the others.

He did little finding, but one by one the others

wandered across the desert, filling the castle.

Joachim found himself in old habits.


One day there was a door where there had not been one before,

on the far side of the castle, and Joachim's father forbade him

from going outside, the way he had when he was young.

Joachim felt the whisper of the stone walls around him.

He drew strength from it.

Are you so certain that this place is yours? he asked.

Do you realize how long we've been here?


When he stepped outside, there was no desert at all

only a city that appeared unlike any Joachim had ever lived in.

I'll return, Joachim promised the strong walls and doors as he left.

He had no idea if the city was safe, but

he needed more than castle walls could provide.


He wandered the city for the sheer joy of seeing it.

Joachim noted the marketplaces and other shops where

he might trade for the things the castle didn't provide.

He didn't realize he was looking for someone

until the hundredth time he thought: not them.


A woman stepped out of the shadows,

her skin black as blood in the moonlight.

He was still staring at her,

putting the pieces together, when she kissed him.

I remembered my name in the desert, she told him.

She whispered the precious syllables in his ear.

Joachim went back to the castle with her at his side.

His father could not stop them and they made up lost time,

talking for days and sprawling across each other.

I cannot stay, she said finally. I have promised

my service to the Dark Lady who protected me from your father.

She left her veil draped over the end of his bed

with a promise that if he whispered into it she would hear him.

Night, Maere

I've lost track of time

peeling the skin off the clock-face

ticking down to an alarm

I can no longer turn off

brass jangling around my chest

shaking my lungs until I gasp


I'm not getting on with sleep

she drags me down each time

I relax, into vivid dreams

stacked up one atop another

until I can't sit up for the weight on my chest


the woman laughs as I try to shake her

her dreams whisper louder

reach out even when I'm awake

with echoes, something forgotten

the memory of an echo in a shutting door


in those dreams I still know the roads

and the people in the houses

the trains still run twice a day through town

there's always an open door

and an argument waiting for me when I get home


I don't have to visit to know

which houses are empty now

that the train tracks are overgrown

the door is locked and

the creek bed is dry most summers


I don't visit, but I know

I'll sleep better here

even half-awake and startled

than I ever did with her

lying in wait


to open my chest

to wake me and wake me

until I've lost the line

between what's true in my dreams

and what lies spill awake

Prey

the backyard was always full of shadows

that was what happened when the people

didn't take enough care of the edges

that made for a good hiding spot in the dark

it wasn't always perfect, it saw

someone looking out the window and fell back


the young daughter stepped outside

not a threat, then. prey?

she looked around, curious, and it suspected

that she didn't quite know

what she was looking for

it wondered if she would see it, if it stepped out

perhaps she was prey. it slid forward again

in the shadows to test her


first it shook some branches to the left

of the young girl. she looked over. instead of

spooking, she came closer to investigate the sound

she smelled like prey usually smelled

she had no marks that said predator

but she didn't behave like prey.


it tried again, slinking away from the girl

to the other side of the yard. it growled loudly

for her to hear, thinking certainly that

would frighten her. no, she came close again

if anything, she moved more confidently

now that her eyes had had time to adjust to the dark.


frustrated now, it reared up in front of her

an inky black shadow that towered over the girl

its eyes glowed in anger at being ignored

it glared down at her and the girl stared up

at first it thought maybe her eyes were wide in fear

but the longer she stared, the less it was sure

maybe she was just curious. maybe she didn't

really understand what it was, what it _meant_

maybe she was too domesticated

to understand why she should fear it

maybe she had forgotten she was prey. it would remind her.


it reached down at her with inky black claws

just waiting for the spark of terror in her eyes

she moved and it thought she was running

maybe cowering in fear, as prey should.

instead, she touched it, she _held_ it

as if it were solid

as if she had the right or the power

angry, it prepared to strike


behind the shadow, something else altogether

rose up, dark as the stars and bright as fire. The girl stared.

"This one is not prey," the woman told it. "This one is mine."

The shadow fled as if it were noon.

The girl waited only a moment before doing the same.

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