Shadow

- 1906-1987

Silhouette

On the face of the moon

Am I.

A dark shadow in the light.

A silhouette am I
On the face of the moon
Lacking color
Or vivid brightness
But defined all the clearer
Because
I am dark,
Black on the face of the moon.
A shadow am I
Growing in the light,
Not understood
As is the day,
But more easily seen
Because
I am a shadow in the light.

My Love

My love has hair
Like midnight,
But midnight fades to dawn.
My love has eyes
Like starlight,
But starlight fades in morn.
My love has a voice
Like dew-fall,
But dew-fall dies at a breath.
My love has love
Like life’s all,
But life’s all fades in death.

Related Poems

The Song of the Smoke

I am the smoke king,
I am black.
      I am swinging in the sky,
      I am ringing worlds on high;
      I am the thought of the throbbing mills,
      I am the soul of the Soul toil kills,
      I am the ripple of trading rills.
Up I’m curling from the sod,
I am whirling home to God.
I am the smoke king,
I am black.

I am the smoke king,
I am black.
      I am wreathing broken hearts,
      I am sheathing devils’ darts;
      Dark inspiration of iron times,
      Wedding the toil of toiling climes,
      Shedding the blood of bloodless crimes,
Down I lower in the blue,
Up I tower toward the true.
I am the smoke king,
I am black.

I am the smoke king,
I am black.
      I am darkening with song,
      I am hearkening to wrong;
      I will be black as blackness can,
      The blacker the mantle the mightier the man,
      My purpl’ing midnights no day dawn may ban.
I am carving God in night,
I am painting Hell in white.
I am the smoke king,
I am black.

I am the smoke king,
I am black.
      I am cursing ruddy morn,
      I am hearsing hearts unborn;
      Souls unto me are as mists in the night,
      I whiten my black men, I blacken my white,
      What’s the hue of a hide to a man in his might!
Hail, then, gritty, grimy hands,
Sweet Christ, pity toiling lands!
Hail to the smoke king
Hail to the black!

Fire Gotten Brighter

Remember that memory.
In this dimness when the sounds I make
are foreign, my home is not my own.
when I think of another winter
and the distant whiteness of its walls—
when even the sun seems set
outside the world. In this dimness
the edge of things removed
to thought the numb call touch,
remember that memory—
the young black self
the whole black body painted hot
by the fresh orange scene in the basement
of our old house when I was nine.
When it was my turn
to keep the fire going while my family slept —
my father off divorced somewhere, my older brother resting
after work, and what shadows hovered at the fringe of light
spilt from the furnace’s mouth—
I stuck my shovel in the flame,
had its intensity
its heat travel through a vein in the handle
to a part of my head.
The coals gotten smaller, brighter.
Out of that fire, my frightened shovelling in the night
now a framed power, that young effort
made a little orange scene
kept the whole world excited—
gathered near its center.

In this dimness where I can’t tell
if my longing is my own, it is gotten winter.
Above me I watch a jet
that be’s perfectly still, yet gets so distant,
goes so pointless. I could take a plane,
fly from here to somewhere small
till I’m ashes of myself—
but everything burns repeatedly
or keeps burning. Remember that memory.
I am dark with effort, back at my mother’s house
someone’s thinking of me, and old and smothered flame
gets waked, and it warms the gap
between image and real light.

The Black Finger

  I have just seen a most beautiful thing,
                     Slim and still,
              Against a gold, gold sky,
              A straight black cypress,
                     Sensitive,
                     Exquisite,
                     A black finger
                     Pointing upwards.
Why, beautiful still finger, are you black?
And why are you pointing upwards?