February 12, 2008

Radiant Shroud

  I sit in the backyard at a reticulated iron table, eating strawberries and watching ants. Occasionally in my peripheral view there is the lunge or glide of a venturing shadow--a cat, a dog.
  I see my own humped shadow. It could be the shadow of a rock formation. A weathered mound with a bump (head), windbent scrub pines (unbrushed hair), steep slopes that will be difficult to climb (shoulders and arms), a tumbling rock (hand, dashing at a fly). Sun on my back, I am thinking so that I can write. I am the Sphinx. The ants are caravaners in the Gobi. Each grain of sand is tuned to sing. Each weed is an oasis.
  Suddenly my shadow moves. It detaches itself from my feet and rotates into a position behind me -- between me and the sun. Oh, I am so weak, so transparent. With my last strength, I turn and see my shadow pulsing on the ground, breathing with relief. I am my own shadow. When the sun is out, I will be seen fat and round as a pumpkin, and I'll be long and thin as a pole as evening comes on. When the moon is full, I will spread across the ground like a blanket, sheltering the very ants I watch in the morning.
  In a lighted room, I will be that chimera on the other side of the lamp -- the ghost companion who attends a reader in the evening, the one who stands patiently outside the pool of light, the one that disappears when the reader turns off her lamp to go to sleep.
  I will now be beautiful at all times. Just as all cats are gray at night; just as all women are beautiful in the dark. My life as a rock trying to affect the world is over--now I can do anything as a speed-of-light shroud of my own past.
  I will race clouds across the plains, pointing the way to hot buffalo. I will enthrall children who stare out of minivans at the altercar that keeps apace on signboards and jumps ditches, just by riding on top and waving. I will meld with the single shadows of glades, and deepen the shadows of each tree and vine and bird in the bush to create obscure shade.
  It has happened the way I said. I sit in my backyard eating strawberries and watching ants. I win a race with a high cloud; I cool my aged cat. A roly-poly bug's bus-shaped shadow disappears within me, then comes out the other side with a banner -- a hair that's stuck to its back.
  I go back to thinking.

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