In all our sanctuaries we sit at risk

Wrestling with my Shadow



My shadow dogs my path. It dwarfs me,

this daemon, this desolate god.

Could I live shadow-free ?

Would I fly ?

What would be left of me ?


Here are some more thoughts on the shadow :


First Sightings


I can say this with real pride :

no one but I

throws my shadow.


I call it my under-self, my field

of operation. I cannot

call it home.


I glimpse it sometimes, usually at night,

leaping the wet rocks

as the tall seas break and pursue ;


or poised for a moment of a bare grey tree-stump

calm after that stoop for eternity

out of the wind, the clutch of the mist ;


or sidling with gleeful expertise

through the ranks of the juggernauts –

that blind, brutal caravan…


My Shadow at Bedside


My shadow leaps on me

each time I sleep –

to devour me.

Yet still my mornings

find me whole

and at each waking

there my shadow hangs

like empty sacking

against my wall –

wholly at my disposal.


Kiss of the Dark Angel


The dark angel of my dreams

was dreadfully beautiful


lithe and invincible

and faceless


sans eyes sans mouth

his head like a smooth bulb


dark and gleaming.

I knew I could not hope


to escape and yes

here he comes pouring


up the stone steps

by the sea-shore, the waves


wild behind him

straight up at me


outwitting me without effort

in our life-long race,


glorious in his searing energy.

I submit, powerless and rapt


as the lipless angel kisses me

taking my face.


Escape Bid


How have I allowed

my shadow to grow so tall ?

It rises from my lamp

like a vast giggling genie.

“Your wish is my command,

O Master,” my genie roars.

And I quail.


It winks at me

each evening

and for that moment

I see nothing

anywhere in the world.


I threw my shadow

all over town –

It leaned across at me

from each echoing underpass

from each foul lift-shaft

from each despairing alley-way.


I scattered my shadow like seed

across the fields –

and the seed bounded from the earth

like a mob of heroes

who chased me and harried me

and reduced me before the whole world.


I caught my shadow by the throat

and flung it into a pit

and packed the pit with sand

boulders and rich cement

and when all had set

hard as rock


I turned to escape, shrieking with relief –

a hand formed of new rock

siezed my heel.

I stood there above my pit

locked in my shadow.


Three-way Encounter between Me, my Shadow                                  and the dread lord Number One


I have this enemy

my “inveterate foe”

my enemy Number One.


Whenever we meet, my enemy

wastes me. I become zero.

All meaning drains from me.


I become a flatness on the road

a vague ugliness in the air

an abortion. And I have nothing


I can call on, no wild cards

no reserve forces, no hidden energies

to throw into the field.


I call my enemy “Number One.”

I don’t know what it looks like

for it borrows any form


it chooses. And is it “He ?” or “She ” ?

It is random and boundless.

It is All. All is “It.”


And I never have warning

of an encounter. No clouds

of dust on the horizon,


no slow rumble of feet, no tensing

of greased muscle, no pause in sound.

Simply my shadow deserts me.




And suddenly I lose my footing.

My ground just goes, my hold on space.

I look about me. I’m not here.


I reach for anything I have

anything that makes me

anything that marks and shapes me.


I reach for my history

my unique possession –

it’s gone it’s an empty lift shaft.


I reach for my voice

my shaping words my answer my shriek –

and the words give in the wind


and all my forming my bite on the air

collapses like a slack sail

like a shower of teeth.


I reach for my rage my saving grace –

and find nothing but a gasping franticness

an incapacity, a self-immolation


and all that comes of my rage

for survival is a rush to give ground

and yield all to the poised advance of my destroyer.


I writhe in the air like a foreign element

marooned here here above ground

hanging like a fish by the tail


held in triumph one Summer’s evening.

I am a transparency held to the sunlight

open to any examination.




And I cry to my shadow

“Why now ?” Why desert me

now ? Each breath of my life


I have sought to escape you

to fly weightless

to exist in pure mind


to secure utter distinctness

to achieve eternity.

Must now be the time I at last succeed


now when I need your earth ?

For my infidelity

you desert me to our ruin.”


And Number One, deep in its steel case

lashing at forests, at continents, at cities,

befouling ocean, air-wave, blood-stream,


raising hordes

of zealots to slaughter their fellows

in the name of a phantasm


breeding the will to deceive,

tending the urge to piracy and plunder

nurturing despair, aiding inertia


working deep in, working slowly

to the very core, paring

particularising, severing, numbering


Number One turns from its vast enterprise

hissing in glee

at my distress


and whispers :

“From whence do you consider

stem my victories?”


Last Word


…My shadow carries my shape and moves with my movements. But it has no features and it never speaks ; and all sorts of strange forms or colours could be hidden in its darkness. Its shape keeps shifting and often it simply disappears. But then it returns. When I am happy I dance and with me my shadow dances. We dance together. When I am ill at ease, I labour and constantly I look back in dread and see my shadow pursuing me, threatening me.

Sometimes, then, my shadow seems to be my loyal and faithful friend, at others my implacable and inescapable enemy. To befriend my shadow would appear to be essential if I am to live successfully here on Earth.

If someone or something overshadows me, I receive immediate protection from the Sun and am relieved of the immense responsibility of my own shadow. On the other hand I am weakened, deprived of my energy and autonomy. It is as if my shadow has been stolen from me, eaten up by a stronger force.

And this in turn implies that my shadow is an important energy source and that I should retain that energy by insisting on my personal independence. Accordingly I must allow nothing and no one to overshadow me. For the Earth is sick and any creative source of energy which can retain wholeness must now devote itself to restoring the Earth.

© Rogan Wolf