Shadow Children

Somewhere,
along the dis­tance be­tween light and dark,
there are chil­dren play­ing pre­tend

at gravedig­ging. Tugged braids and
kicked shin­bones startle laugh­ter and
screams like cold glass rat­tling and
win­ter wind­chimes.

In those shad­ows
Why is not a ques­tion of rea­son
but a crisp cast­ing of de­fi­ance.

There they are; lim­i­nal, in­sis­tent,
learn­ing that fear is to be buried
un­til they have buried so much
fear they are neck deep in it.
Growing, then, be­comes a need

to stay above fear, us­ing it as fer­til­iz­er
stretch be­yond it, strive
and all the while dri­ve roots deep­er
to­ward the riven rock un­til the trees

re­al­ize they have be­come moles and
now must pre­tend they are at play.
Now, dig­ging blind, Now, shriven of all
but a thing called adul­tery.

v2.0

Somewhere,
along the dis­tance be­tween light and dark,
there are chil­dren play­ing pre­tend

at gravedig­ging. Tugged braids and
kicked shin­bones startle laugh­ter and
screams like cold glass rat­tling and
win­ter wind­chimes.

In those shad­ows
Why be­comes a crisp cast­ing of de­fi­ance;
a state­ment of in­stinct, not a
ques­tion of rea­son.

They are imag­i­nary; lim­i­nal, in­sis­tent,
learn­ing that fear is to be buried
un­til they have buried so much
fear they are neck deep in it.
Growing then, be­comes a need

to stay above fear, to use it as fer­til­iz­er
stretch be­yond it, strive
and all the while dri­ve roots deep­er
to bedrock un­til the trees

no­tice they have sur­round­ed them­selves
with dirt and must now pre­tend they are
play­ing as moles. 

Now, dig­ging blind. Now,
shriven of all
but a thing called adul­tery.


This turned out a hell of a lot dark­er than I an­tic­i­pat­ed. I was ini­tial­ly think­ing about how chil­dren are truth­s­peak­ers un­til they learn enough nu­ances of lan­guage and get en­cul­tured enough to guard their tongues. A sort of Kids Say the Darnedest Things idea. That whole con­cept end­ed up as fear. The idea that adult­hood is ba­si­cal­ly just a long drawn-out de­nial or con-game sticks around, thank­ful­ly. I think po­ets try to re­claim the hon­esty of child­hood. Not child­ish­ness, but the seem­ing­ly in­her­ent abil­i­ty to call a horse a Pegasus and make it true, and to speak their mind with­out fear for reper­cus­sion. I’m try­ing to get to that point my­self. Where I can write, draw­ing from the well of my ex­pe­ri­ence, over­com­ing any wor­ries that I have about friends or fam­i­ly chang­ing their per­cep­tions of me be­cause of what ap­pears.

As al­ways this po­em is a rough draft. But what I’m go­ing to do now is keep every it­er­a­tion of the po­em in the post, so the last one will be the most re­cent ver­sion. Your com­ments and sug­ges­tions are ap­pre­ci­at­ed.

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