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 other’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.

This appeared on the blog in April 2015, and another version 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…

A Q&A and more successful examples of what I was trying to achieve can be found at Prime Number Magazine:


4 thoughts on “Self-Portrait with Shadow

  1. Since I personally start with this letter, this is a favorite of mine. But also, the alphabets were the poems that introduced me to you so they always have a special place in my heart. ^_^ And I know I had to look up “amphiscian” then too and because of my terrible memory I was able to experience the pleasure of a novel word all over again!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pondering hiss as opposite of shh … shadows do neither … no sound from shadow nor from other forms engaging with shadow. You’ve illuminated my attraction to shadows! [Often I position my shadow in a photo, finding the angle that blends shadow best with rest of setting – my kind of “selfie”!] Feeling the urge to explore umbra variances along with shadow-to-scene proportions – very motivating poem here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love shadows, and have had to force myself to not include “shadow” in many poems. It still slips in, but now as often as it might if I’d not consciously decided to limit use of the word. Oh, the things we do to ourselves!

      Liked by 1 person

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