The Shadow

Cyrus Cassells

after Hans Christen Anderson

Traveler, I came to a colossus
of clustered houses—a sultry kingdom,
replete with breeze-swept balconies,
belled donkeys, and vying boys
slyly triggering Roman candles—
all of it beneath a glittering
caravansary of detectable stars—

In the bullying heat
of that equatorial city,
my rambunctious shadow grew
thinner, desiccated, restless,
and leaped, abracadabra
(more jack-in-the-box
than agile gazelle!),
onto my mysterious neighbor's
intricate balcony.
When my rogue-swift, dark counterpart
returned, I asked:
What did you see? Who lives there?
he revealed.
Yes, Poetry, as numinous and longed-for
as the Northern Lights,
often lives, in palm-guarded places,
as a shuttered Garbo, an elusive
recluse cloistered among us—

Imagine: I was a seeker tantalized
by light and shadow
that I faithfully mimicked
in expressive oils and aquarelles,
an ardent, itinerant painter, attuned
to the way garden shadows
become diligent brushstrokes
or late afternoon lace.
So why should I be surprised
at my headstrong shadow?

To read the rest of this piece, purchase issue 27.1 here.