The Shadowlands Poem by Edward Steinhardt

The Shadowlands

We are shadows thrown upon the wall.
We are images, what others see;
How we see ourselves, true-
Or what we think we perceive
Or want to be.
We are shadows, souls in circumspect,
Flesh and blood souls
Who love, hate; lie and get up,
Fall and desist.
Our emotions are our ramparts,
Our will: our army;
We of our several selves
Count in unison and apart.
We go forward alone and together,
Seeking the childhood of our nursery,
While gaining the world
By grown-up design.
We are scared of living, yet wither
At the thought of mortality.
We think that in loving
Aloneness may be less-lonely,
But it is not.
We pass one another on tracks
Of a variable gauge,
Locomotives bound
For this dream or that;
Our own stationmasters
With our own rules,
Solitaire by cheating;
Playing with more cards, or less-
We are the poker-faced children
Who lie but do not deceive,
Caught red-handed in the secret garden,
Having purposely lost the key
So as not to be incriminated.
We choose to remember backward;
Not forward- taking less the prize
But the reception crumbs instead.
We are the invited guests
In a stranger's house,
Being by being, but somewhere else.
We look to the window
While talking; hearing- but not.
We seek the lands and fair weather
On the other side of the glass,
A mind-manufactured substitute
For the present-tense.
We look into the fire
And see what is not there,
Secret arsonists who see something
The firemen do not.
We shake with the fever of a spell,
A magic of incredulity
And unbelievability,
A terrestrial credo of faith
Against hopelessness and helplessness.
For in believing in our separate selves
We hold ourselves to treason,
Taking life on as in a trinity;
Going forward with condemnation
And absolution. We change our souls
Even as we spring forward and fall back;
Toddlers who waver but do not yet run,
Children who parry, but mind the switch,
Adolescents who grow up
But have not the answers.
We take the first bicycle ride
And absorb the first panic;
Then free-wheel through the wind,
Seeing the twilight shadows
That gather and stretch across the road,
An intermittent projection
Of brilliance-darkness, brilliance-darkness.
We rocket with temporary momentum,
Believing while feeling, feeling to believe,
That one's shadow melds with the others,
And becomes darkness
So that there may be light.
We go forward many times into darkness.
We fumble, we waver, we go into a ditch.
We remember the majesty of the thrill
Made moreso by the fall.
We pick up our bikes as children,
Go forward as through many lands,
Tourists by design- or bad directions.
We visit this place and that place
Within ourselves,
Opening shutters here and there
To both feel the rain of the storm-
And shut it out.
We exult, we distress,
We shuffle the cards,
Deal them out.
We gather storms
To make our own rain,
We press our nose
To the glass of our soul
And think that whatever should come,
Tempest or not,
We will see our own
Shadow cast upon the wall.
We will remember that
We are our company in our aloneness,
That our image is that
Of belief battling unbelief,
Both in ourselves
And when we are in the shadowlands.

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