Shadow

Morri Creech

 

He got up. It was there. And it was growing
from much the same place it had been before;
it had followed him to sleep without his knowing
and, once he rose, had crept up to the door.

In much the same place it had been before,
it skulked behind him while he brushed his teeth;
and when he turned it crept up to the door,
a stain that seemed to spread from underneath

the parted curtains. While he brushed his teeth
he thought of all he’d come to know of it.
Which wasn’t much. It spread from underneath
his being anywhere the rooms were lit—

the one thing that he’d come to know of it.
Sometimes it stretched behind him like a double,
keeping close to him when the room was lit
or waiting for him in the dark like trouble.

Somehow it seemed unsettling, like a double
exposure, or like the outline of the moon—
not waiting for him in the dark like trouble
but needling him like doubts he felt at noon,

Unnerving as the outline of the moon.
Like many things, he put it from his mind—
but still he felt it nagging him at noon,
an existential wake he trailed behind

him. Like most things, he put it from his mind.
He focused on his work, his kids, his wife,
as though he didn’t trail its wake behind
the half of him he’d come to call “my life,”

the part that had a job, three kids, a wife,
and, here and there, a good time with his fellows;
was this the part he’d come to call his life?
He hated to admit he might be jealous.

Some nights when he was out late with his fellows
it bloomed beneath the streetlamp like a rose.
He hated to admit he might be jealous;
What is it up to, he thought, when my eyes close?

It bloomed beneath the streetlamp like a rose
and followed him to sleep without his knowing.
Where will it go, he thought, when my eyes close?
The question troubled him. And it kept growing.

MORRI CREECH is the author of four collections of poetry, including The Sleep of Reason (2013) and Blue Rooms (2018). He teaches at Queens University of Charlotte in the undergraduate and low-residency programs in creative writing.


image: Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait in Hell (detail), 1903