Poetry: The Shadow Knows | clivejames.com
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The Shadow Knows

See how the shadow of my former self
Moves through the kitchen, putting plates away.
The dishwasher yields up its treasure trove
Of future shards from long-ago today.
The blue-ringed soup bowls go home to their shelf.

I get home often now, as shadows are
Inclined to do, because they are so weak.
Now that my work is done, the peace I love
Is here for me, and you can hear me speak
More clearly now than I spoke from afar.

If that sounds strange now we are not apart,
My even breath must prove that here, at last,
I come to you with all that I could save
Of pure affection from my troubled past
Which made us wealthy while I broke your heart.

I am the shadow and the widower
Because the innocent you were I slew,
But you are here, and real, and far above
My level of attainment. It is you
Who brings me back to love what we once were.

 

Standpoint, October 2011

Note (from Collected Poems)

The line ‘I am the shadow and the widower’ is taken from Gérard de Nerval’s desolate poem ‘El Desdichado’, written not long before his suicide. (Years before, I had borrowed the same desperate idea for a song lyric, to be found in the final section of this book.) As a corrective, the title is a catchline from the radio show The Shadow, which I listened to regularly early in my hidden career as a leader of secret night-time gangs.