Self-Portrait with Shadow


Self-Portrait with Shadow

Sometimes light reveals our thoughts.
Separate and unequal, we blend.

The predominant sibilant in English,
its pronunciation varies.

Sciaphobia is the fear of shadows. Last
winter the wellhead froze and we

chain-sawed our way to warmth,
synchronized in the fading light.

And which decides the otherโ€™s fate?
In the flame I detect new life, a hissing

in the cast iron box. Though ranked only 8th
in frequency of use, more words in English

begin with S, leaving additional questions.
Is hiss the opposite of shh?

The umbra is the darkest part
of the shadow, where light is completely

blocked. Not the serpent, but the bow
and a misperception. Shadows grow

in proportion to the distance
between the object blocking the light

and the projection surface. Resembling
infinity, yet missing the link. Two facets

of one darkness. A faint suggestion. Amphiscians
cast shadows in two directions. Or not at all.

Another version of this appeared in Otoliths in fall of 2013, but it appears that I’m not quite done with it. I’d been exploring our alphabet, tracing letters’ origins from hieroglyphs to present form, and attempting to merge some of those findings with disparate details. One of these days I’ll get back to it…

More successful examples of what I was trying to achieve can be found at Prime Number Magazine:ย


26 thoughts on “Self-Portrait with Shadow

  1. I like shadows. Poe wrote about shadows a lot, but I can’t think of the work right now and my copy of the complete works is buried. Plato said all we see is shadows, and we are in a cave looking at a wall, and reality is illusion. Plato also said all the artists and poets should be gotten rid of in his Republic, because they disturb people. I think people should be disturbed, to wake them from this bitter delusion modern society has seduced us with. Keep writing poetry.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Pingback: Self-Portrait with Shadow | Tales of Unwise Paths

  3. Thank you for liking “Wildflowers.” Intriguing post! ๐Ÿ™‚ I enjoyed your exploration of shadows in this poem. I now realize that they are more complex than they seem. I also liked learning more about the letter “S.”


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