Sick of Shadows
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.
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
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.