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The shadow.

The body all in black. The spirit neither male nor female. You will be lying next to your familiar--the one you chose, the one you are sworn to--who sleeps each night more easily than you do, a sleep where dreams disturb and cleanse, the morning always new. the dreams forgotten. While you are helpless, a helpless mortal specimen, pinned to the pillow by the velvet hand of the nightmare. Wake and you will not sleep again tonight. And so you rise, key in hand, to unlock a hallway of doors and so allay your fears, to walk out into starlight, moonlight, searching for your shadow in a shadow world where all shadows disappear.

It will happen. You will be walking down deserted streets in perfect painful solitude because, you think, you are one of the chosen. Lost in a maze of years that twist and curve and end in cul-de-sacs, you will know you were put here to fail. Know you are finite.

To act or not to act. Each is a choice. Both lead to failure. What is most dear sleeps in a sleep so deep, so far removed from earth's heaviness, you cannot touch it. Nor can you slip the ring from your finger that binds you to earth and earthly cares. Once, didn't you wait for black wings to descend, wait for black talons to haul you up into the starry void of heaven -dark visitation!-- wait to be taken in, spit out, wait to be shaped into night's instrument, so finely tuned its voice. trembling, would sing an octave higher than the human chorus.

You were put here to fail Your steps, unnoticed, have led you to the river where stars, like lovers, swim in pairs, driven by the current down and away, only to reappear, newly configured, on the river's shifting surface. As you will, too, someday. Now you must choose, choose to turn back or continue on your way, crossing the footbridge to follow night's monarchy as it retreats and disappears. How long do you stand there seeking, in stillness, in inaction, the completion that you fear? The shadow, wrapped in its own dark light,

striding toward you.
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Author:Spires, Elizabeth
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:May 1, 1993
Words:364
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