Shadow Puppets

For centuries before my childhood slumber parties—
​hours of secret entertainment, whole scenes,
​built mostly of barking dogs, enacted by fingers

and flashlight—my land has known the play
​of light and shadow. (Over lifetimes, I have hidden
​between screen and oil lamp, punched holes

in clear lines for entertainment and worship.
​My fingers remember dusk to dawn dancing
​with deer-hide.) I remember this

in our midnight conversations. In the safety
​of starlight, as we talk of pirates and partners,
​birth and its opposites, your smile becomes a child’s

mischief, your eyebrows tell stories. You are light
​and shadow, walking in, fading out, the illusion
​of distance. In these midnights, we allow ourselves

to be seen, the way children do, more aware
​of form on faraway wall than hand sliding
​from dog to deer, more aware of size than nearness.

Like all games, this has rules and cautions. I am learning
​lamplight, choosing focus, watching silhouettes merge
​in their slowness, their oldness. Soon, the sun

will rise and these shadows will retire
​into their secret boxes. Until then, my hands
​cup the flame. We work at staying whole.

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