Holding the ground together,
my shadow despises me.
Its pain causes a symptom
of sinkholes when I walk between
its bottomless houses.
It makes every winter longer
by one hallway hidden among the evergreens.
My current shadow,
made from all my previous shadows,
wants me alone
inside its damnation.
I’ve come to understand
the wind is just my shadow
moving its weapons from tree to tree.
I can listen for its baritone footsteps
when I run out of good things
to say to myself,
the good things that keep a person alive.
“Oblivion can be measured
by the depth of a single shadow,”
I told the one that belonged
in its place behind my back.
It blames me
for its irreversible darkness.
It steals my few cups of strength.
It makes the face of a failing liver and never changes.
It grows its food from sleep
that never makes it to the Earth.
My shadow, always taller than me,
flaunts its sadness
because it is not admired
by the happier, more gifted shadows.
It leads me through its hallways,
past the final, cringing bodies of sunlight
until I fall, like something
that never existed, into the thoughts
of its raging dark puddles.
The Soulmate Who Lives Only in my Sleep
I had to give up all knowledge of time passing to find my bedroom again. Then there was just a blinking traffic light that sang to a girl frightened by the next room’s whispered lovemaking. She screamed because I didn’t know how to stop anyone.
“Why does your room keep touching me,” she sobbed.
I dismantled the days in my shopping channel hallucinations — maybe the fossils of video tape are lies told by those who vanished there.
And now I peel the skin off a picnic table. It says “God loves Carianne” before it fades to a half-convincing shyness. I write over its wooden winter: “I will not love. I will not love. I will not love.” And that word with none of its original immortality.
The frightened girl stays in the middle of my sleep where we chop the light into many children. Following the flow of her loosened hair, I arrive only at the wrong mornings. I spend the days mapping what I left behind, and it takes every degree of body temperature, every way of looking at the things she said to me that meant nothing.
I try not to love the girl who lives in my sleep — she has no hands, no mouth, no skin, nothing that can be felt from anywhere. I don’t know her name, though I carry her across the same bed always.
“It’s not a dream,” I tell her.
But she still can’t feel me licking the infant monoliths from her blurred pubis where something might still be sad or looking for us. I tell her that every shadow I ever made required all my concentration, and that I fell forever inside those holes to the hells of Hackettstown.
She hears nothing, not even the birds unraveling my sleep, its little clump of clothing where it’s possible my shirt still breathes heavier than hers. I ask if the windows record our feelings and then leave a kiss on her neck, but it does not survive.
She dampens her morning cigarettes, each somehow a child that will never recognize the way a window’s emptiness advances while the trees stay the same.
Stealing the day’s ration of space from a dandelion, she tapes her body to the bed again.
We do not advance to the same minute together.