Shades of Real

I am in that place of bonded service to the shadows. Strong brick and stone, tarnished by long years of miasma, are my walls. There are rough chinks. Sometimes sunlight shines through in bright bits of warming rays. I have no memory of seeing outside, though faint hazy echoes of sunny airy landscape seems to have familiarity I can’t quite apprehend.

Another day in the box waiting for nightfall. That is when the caged bird sings, mournfully, hauntingly. That is when the dreaming starts. Take the ride your life could never allow.

We have met the enemy, for they are us, just one shadow away.
Human newborn imbued with alien soul. Where the human soul is taken, if it survives, who knows?

She screams for her child. Deeply under sedation, it is but a dream. No one hears her. No one understands when she insists this child is not hers.

After a while of constant reinforcement, she accepts the child as hers. The child, not so clearly subject to social norms, cannot accept her, or for that matter, this world, as its rightful place.
There is disturbance. I am called to a shadow chamber, given mission to carry a message between worlds. I am outfitted to detract notice, given instructions, missive, and coin of the realm to which I will travel. Before I fully reach my destination, I am overcome with not unexpected fatigue. I find a shelter among a cluster of wild brush and rusting trash to await clarity.

The dreams again overtake; I am of different consciousness, traveling a river night .
Her eyes opened. She had felt the swaying of the boat. The darkness of the moonless sky blended into the inky mystery of the river, so opening her eyes showed her nothing. She could smell dank, pungent organic odors, feel surrounded by the river, the forest, the moist air. She could hear the splashing, slapping of the water against the boat. Insects, the occasional nocturnal hunter and hunted, breeze moving through the trees, all added to the aural ambience. Her senses assured her that she was present here, without human companionship.

There had been a party, she thought, maybe. Loud music, laughter, jocular outbursts, smells of stale smoke and booze, vague memories, but sensually distinct. Were there drugs? Was there an argument? Loud anger, breaking glass, sharp pain, indistinct, receding. There may have been pain, but not now. No post drug wooziness, but memory vague, without certainty, a broken thread drifting away. Like this boat, untethered, drifting in the slapping water.

She laughed briefly at the thought of living in a metaphor. Strangely, having no idea of where she was or how she had gotten there was issuing no concern. Perhaps this was a common occurrence. Images from movies about memory disorders randomly flashed into inner view. Still, no fear, no concern. She felt calm, relaxed, at peace. Breathing in the night air, cool enough to invigorate without chilling, enjoying the sounds and smells of a natural order, she let the thought of memories drift away.

Perhaps when it gets light, I will see where I have come to be, she thought, or heard in a gentle voice not truly recognized, seeming to come from both within and without. So she drifted through the night, content, serene, laughing at silly little private jokes, singing wisps of songs as they floated by, making up fantasy landscapes and stories from the shadow shapes as she passed through.

As dawn approached, shapes became more distinct against the color infusing sky. She understood that her journey was over, as the memories returned in one last burst of clarity. She understood that she had come home, her old black dog greeting her affectionately at the gate. Her eyes closed as she gratefully embraced wet fur, welcoming presence.
Awakening to a bed of eider down and an array of concerned faces, I am drawn to my target.

“The shadow commands you.” I say, simply, directly, without inflection, as I have been trained. No one else notices.

Satisfied with my task completed, I am allowed to sleep, dream of that other place, the world of hypnotic normality. The shadow releases me from bondage.

Walking carefree in the sunshine, I smile to see elongating shadows. Soon balance will be restored, one world not of service and bondage, but reciprocity.

I don’t know where this thought has come from, perhaps words of a popular song.



It was a brisk, bright-mooned evening in mid-Fall — the sidewalks and trees decorated in crackly orange leaves, which blew helter-skelter in the excitement of the wind.
Marie, pretty little Marie, danced along the sidewalk, pranced across the streets, dressed in deep velvet and sparkling finery on her way to a night of music and joy. Perhaps he would be there — the he of the moment in her heart — a still unconsummated romance, which, of course, added to the excitement in her eyes, the dancing of her feet. She was sweet twenty-two with long brown hair and big blue eyes and out on her own for under a year now, learning about life outside of school. By day a temporary secretary in various city offices, waiting for the big break to appear which would launch her career; by night an energetic blithe spirit of the local cultural scene, looking for Mr. Right who would make her feel warm and cozy and loved.
Warm . . . and cosy . . . and loved . . .
John H. O’Connor — Johnny O’ — less than dapper man about town, scheming and scamming and looking for his lucky break, also had gentler feelings. Just because he’d been knocked about a bit, he wasn’t bitter, just wise to the ins and outs; and he wasn’t one of the ins. So he looked for the wide chance, the long-shot with the heavy purse, and meanwhile dreamed big-time, often with chemical aid; and looked for that special someone who would believe in him the way he wanted to believe in himself.
And they thought they’d found each other that bright, crackling Fall.
She was shy but forward. He was brash but shy. So they engaged in bantering small talk, while burning into each other’s eyes — everytime they encountered each other at the bars and parties and concert halls, for something over a month now. And tonight once more. But tonight was special. Tonight was magical. Crackling energy erupted and there was so much more between them — like telepathy. They kissed. And walked each other home, hand in hand. And ended up in her apartment,
where her roommates were conveniently out. They told each other their souls and enjoyed bodily bliss and felt very, very special and blessed. And Marie, sweet little Marie, knew deep down for the very first time that somebody loved her all the way through, without reservation, without condensation, and with only one condition — that she love him too.
So let us leave these new lovers to do as lovers do and visit them later down the road of life. Not too much later, for things move fast in these days of high-technology and mass mediated culture. Let’s look in on them, say nine months hence, in the long, hot summer of their lives. And they’re sharing a small apartment on the wrong side of town. (What makes it wrong — well the glaring glass and excrement on the sidewalk, as well as the occasional passed-out drunk or junkie might hint at a less than luxurious lifestyle for the local hoi-polloi.)
Well, how could she believe in him, fastidious little Marie, who may have been emotionally starved, but at least was always fed and clothed among the middle-class. And he loved her, yes he loved her almost feverishly, but he couldn’t control her; couldn’t own her; and the fear of losing her was more than he could bear.
What had started out as a glorious adventure had turned too starkly real.
And the real world, in fact, has become much too stark and drear. What do we see on the tv and newstands but nuclear this and bacterial that and crazy folk erupting into murder on the streets and schoolyards and AIDS-infected rapists and child pornography rings and arson and bombings, and man’s most brutal retaliation unto man, woman and child. A long, hot, greenhouse-effectuated summer indeed.
So he hit her, once or twice, or maybe, yeah, he went, a bit, out of control. He beat her, pummeled her, showed her just who was boss-man, upper-hand, in control of the situation, able to rule her life. And did she leave?
Hell, no. Where could she go? There is no safe port home, you know. Not when Mom and Dad have split long since and communicate mostly by holiday phone calls and birthday greeting cards with a twenty-five dollar check enclosed because they’ve both known better days.
And friends, what friends? He’s alienated all those who are less worse off than they and she, so blindly attentive in the early days of bliss, had barely noticed. That brilliant career has yet to materialize. We must admit she’d not really been pursuing it lately. And he’s pissed away her weekly paychecks on deals made of daydreams and the occasional rent, utilities and food. But, hey, this is the latter part of the twentieth century. Aren’t there “Women’s Groups” and socially conscious organizations to come to the rescue? Well, maybe somewhere; but not here where it counts so far as she can see. She’s alone. Except when he loves her in the warm, soft night, singing poetry with his eyes and hands and mouth — giving and taking and being all she could imagine. Oh, for those warm, soft nights . . .. But she’s got to go. She must escape. The total desperation of the situation has come upon her. Nowhere to go . . . nowhere . . . nowhere . . .. But go she must!
So she waits ’til he’s out on the town, scheming and scamming and giving his all just to try to make it for her, to be somebody in her eyes. And she just starts running, in no particular direction, no thought in her mind but escape. She runs, then walks, then runs again, through the town, through the city streets, with no certain destination, desperate little Marie, living on the hope that something will occur to her as she runs. And, running out of breath, she stops at a newsstand where the headlines scream of horrors far beyond what she has ever endured. But she’s out of breath and out of options. She’s got about $5.00 in her pocket, so she goes into the nearest bar to use the facilities and buy a pack of cigarettes. And take some time to think.
Pretty little Marie, they come up to her and offer to buy her a drink. What the hell. She drinks. It makes her feel less. Notice less. And some sleezeball carries her away, arm around her staggering form. And when she tries to scream, he covers her mouth and nose and face with the pillow. So she screams and screams inside her mind. And in the bright, hot morning, they find her, what’s left of her, in a scuzzy alley. The headlines talk of her tomorrow, but it’s too late for her to care.

Imagine May Day

Brazen witches fly, legends say,
dark Moon nights; arise, stealthy, silent,
blessed in revelry.
Bonded to Earth’s creation;
learning at mother’s breast
to embrace Her gifts and lessons.

Historic Man may proclaim, may murder
for fealty, to swear allegiance to
their hunt’s command.
They may elevate their One True King
to kneel and obey. They may employ
counting measure, ceremony and sacrifice,
taunting and torture or other trials
thus finding for each loyal swan a pond
to plunder, to parade in royal color,
their place of pride.

Cruelty descends, more master than tactic;
it is the enemy of joy, of flavor,
bonding, works of love and honor.

Meanwhile, mundane men, on real ground,
work companions to soil and rain, engineers
trained to each moment’s urgencies, philosophers
of stone and mud, reason and toil, persist.
Their sinew and bone feed
the ages, build clay and richness on which
wealth relies.

Wisdom knows the sweat of practiced movement,
flexible to unexpected obstacles, able to modulate
hushed or loud as the crowd ebbs
or grows in credulity.
Where wisdom seeps through, counters
prevailing poisons, invigorates blood to nourish
minds and hearts, look there for fortuity.

Arise, lovers! Bring forth better days,
ours to play in open revelry,
neighbors enjoying shared labors, wholesome fruit.
Accept truth of magic; imagine life into this world.