SHADOW OF NIGHT

Do not try to tell me

            that the night does not cast a shadow.

No night was ever so dark

            that its bony silhouette

            wasn’t laid bleak

                        against some empty sidewalk

            or huddled in the alcove of

                        an abandoned warehouse.

 

If you haven’t seen the shadow yourself,

                        look harder.

No, not the heavy lines

            of lamppost,

not the reeling crash of headlight,

nor the brush of the white moon.

Not even the feathered chiaroscuro

            of starlight through the smokestacks.

 

It is the last taste of beer in your glass,

the shadow of gesture on

            the bar stool near closing time,

the space that lies between

            two still bodies after

                        midnight.

 

The shadow straddles soft words in

            the dark and rides them

                        in deft turns.

It shakes the branches of your dreams

and wakes you like a stark,

            cold hand.

 

Don’t ask me for sure, where the shadow of the night

            goes when the morning eases in.

It breathes beneath the heavy movements

            of crows in the trees,

and squats by the riverbank-

                        waiting.

It pools in your morning coffee

and eddies in the shallow wind

and shoulders its way

            onto the bus

and sits in the back, brooding.

 

It lives in the hesitation

            between attraction and affection

and attaches to the underbelly of concern.

It lives in casual conversation

            and mocks the passage of the sun....

 

and come some long evening

when the slick skin of the empty

night presses against

you in your sleep,

            the shadow will reveal its source.

 

 R.S. Russell