The Bodies of Shadows

byEdgar Gabriel Silex
a cree man once told me shadows have thicknesses
sure he said   you can stack them like dead skins
pointing that way just outside the reservation boundary
there's a whole pile of them he said   all manner of thicknesses
walking in and out of that liquor store

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I know all things leave their shadows
buried in the ground     petrified in stone
after my grandfather buries the blue corn kernels in the earth
I know the shadows of the worms   insects   the winged
all the legged animals down in the sacred ground
they sing the kernels to their birth as the earth heart drums
life into them     the silent shadows sing them up out of the center
of the darkness and when they show their elongated blue-green heads
my grandfather is there with every dawning sun singing them
like he was there for us     singing us up     he sings and drums
the kernels up until they are ripe and in ceremony
we will cut them down     eat them so that the married songs of light
and darkness are reborn inside us every winter day

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that redtail hawk up there dances his sacred circles gracefully
if you look at his eyes you will see his sharpness
is focussed on his shadow     hawking is a lonely business
no matter how close his feathers get to the Creator's
windy voice     his earth-bound body will fill with the gravity
of loneliness     that's when you will see him dive to feed
his shadow a snared sparrow or a field mouse
that's how they keep each other company

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I'm sure you have heard of the woman crushed to death
by the shadow of her childhood   how every evening it would come
reified under the cover of darkness     how every evening
she would ask the moonlight to protect her as her mother
was never able to   how one moonless night she became so frightened
she jumped through a window trying to escape
but the shadows landed on her and crushed her   I am sure you heard
it said it was her father's shadow but I say it was
the weight of her silence that crushed her

        *         *         *         *         *         *
every dawn there is that moment when you hear
the universal truth as silence
it happens just before the sun crests
it is the moment when all our shadows lift
off of us and you can sing the weight up
even as far as the dissolving stars
even after my grandfather has passed through
I will still hear him every dawn
out there with me     shadowless     singing
singing our shadows up     saying to them
thank you     thank you for keeping us humble
thank you     thank you for teaching us silence

From Through All the Displacements by Edgar Gabriel Silex,
Curbstone Press. © 1995 Edgar Gabriel Silex

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