DeWitt Henry

On Shadows

Me and my shadow 
Peter Pan lost his
a shadow of my former self
the Shadow knows
ninety degrees in the shade

like silence to sound, 
eddies behind boulders,
eclipses, moon phases
warm-up acts to celebrity.

Sundial’s stylus, marking time
Five o’clock shadow

Fencing with his shadow
Scared of her shadow
Groundhog back to sleep

In Science we measured
our shadows according to 
the hour and season. 
My hand and fingers make a rabbit
silhouettes on the shade. 
Shapes cast on a backlit screen.
Shades in the underworld.
Overshadowed.  Under the shadow.
To shadow is to imitate, to follow.
The P.I. shadows the adulteress.

At 22, a graduate student,
lonely, life- and draft-deferred,
I sat with back to sun, relieved
to spy my head and shoulders
framed by blocks of light.  
To have some substance.  Self-
defined and fixed upon
a life of thought.

The wicker basket 
left outside all winter
leans 0-shaped against a drainpipe, 
one side aglow with morning sun
while the other casts its filigree 
not only over woven innerness
and rag of snow below, but over 
six feet of flat ground  
to a wedge-shaped bulkhead, 
where it climbs and joins 
the solid shadow of the wall, 
then lays its crescent handle 
(turned to knifepoint) 
over one door.  Miraculous! 

Shadows in her childhood
swept up bedroom walls
as terrors until 
“I figured it out one night,”
writes Annie Dillard.  Headlights
passing in the street.

We’re walking shadows
Poor players, protests the nihilist

Victims of significance. 
Body against soul.
Touch against desire.

Undreamt of transformations, 
familiar, yet strange.