I look up from the page and notice my shadow
watching me. Lately, she has been
sulking in corners, morose as a teenager
who finally realized just how
embarrassing I have been all her life.
She cannot wait to leave home.
Soon, I tell her and light a thousand candles.
Soon, as I fill my evenings with words.
There’s a sizeable queue of them at my door,
all decked in their ratty plumage,
hungry for flight. Eerie, the sense
of having lived through this before,
each time as a lesser bird.
I used to be my shadow’s right-angle god,
raising her upward from moonlit
ink, scratching my secret name
on her forehead. In that flat world
where she lived in silence,
I was the silence. A three-dimensional,
many-tongued hunger that grew
larger by ingesting the light. A word’s
need for a body? My shadow
had it, too. I was her sky made of flesh,
thicker than sound. A precipice
for the unwanted vowel.
But I craved language like sex. I gave
myself to each word for close
to nothing—pennies or their absence.
I let words do things I thought
made me more. Teach me taxidermy.
Insect collecting techniques.
How to boil marrow from bone.
How to assemble a body from scraps
and hook it up to the national grid.
What else should I have done?
My windows stayed open. Like a mouth,
the door. Words would come in
and spend me like poker chips.
They filled me from every angle.
They said I was easy. I let them
hollow my bones, fashion my arms
into wings. Borrow my air and keep it.
Clasp my throat like a flute. How
could I have known that even
when murdered in silence, thought
is the end of silence?
Now here we are, in a standoff,
my shadow and I, both diminished
by what’s ticking between us.
I unzip our feet and prop her against
the twilight. There’s a peg
by the door she can swing on or go
where she will. This is how
it should be: parent, child, loneliness.
Yet she stays, enveloped in dignified
doom. Ours is a grave-filled
room, in which a god subject to time
yearns to transcend it.
She pins the quivering shadows
of thought on the page, their wings
slowing down with each
heartbeat, as amorous, the blunt
tip pushes through.
Originally from Chisinau, Moldova, Romana Iorga lives in Switzerland. She is the author of two poetry collections in Romanian. Her work in English has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals, including Poet Lore, New England Review, Salamander, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Gulf Coast, and others, as well as on her poetry blog at clayandbranches.com.