It is something like a shadow
that goes everywhere with me,
Cast by the light of distant lamps
that I shall never see.
For some, it is a chain I bear.
For others, it is I.
It fades faint when I am busy,
and it thickens when I cry.
Each morning, you’d a shadow-road
that rolled out from your feet,
And fell on places you should go
and people you should meet.
Then at dusk, your shadow trailed
from your feet back to the dawn,
And its fingers picked out places
where you had — or hadn’t — gone.
From afar, my shadow crossed your path,
and whispered to your mind.
In due course, our shadows mingled,
sharing face, and shape, and mind.
For our daughter, they stretched stronger,
showing all that she could prove.
Since we parted, each has faded
to a shadow of our love.
When I saw your shadow frozen,
cast alone upon the ground,
And I could not find you near it,
though your thoughts lay all around,
Then I knew that you had left us
for a life without decay,
Under light that casts no shadows
— so your shadow had to stay.
In your eye the light was dying,
And I could not keep from crying
For the memory of the future
I had meant to spend with you.
When I called them to revive you,
They just sat machines beside you.
You were silent to the inside;
There was nothing words could do.
But it struck me, as you faded,
That your face grown grey and shaded
Was the one thing fixed in memory
From the time I’d spent with you.
Then they lost your final echo
And I left you to the shadow;
And I told myself the shadows
Would do all they could for you.
And my new phone was fantastic,
Made of opal-patterned plastic.
So I photographed a lily
And I thought no more of you.
You made us champions, with words of gold:
The bold, the few, who faced the fallen horde.
Return from all despair, your songs foretold;
In every sacrifice, you saw reward.
You spoke, and we were what we had to be:
Meek supplicants in honest need of aid;
Young rogues in eager search of villainy;
A fighting force, whose terms would be obeyed.
In nothing foreign could you find surprise;
You knew the nature of our every foe,
Could read their loves and terrors in their eyes,
And, with their form and tongue, amongst them go.
Your grave shall bear no sword, for, at the end,
You laid it down to meet them as a friend.
Let temple bells ring rich and terrible,
In joy that we are safe, and grim farewell.
Life valourous, but death contemptible!
We lay in state a corpse of fame grown fell.
Here full has flared a courage past compare:
To plumb the depths arcane, and chance the pit,
In halls most fey, to game with subtle wit,
To taunt the angels demons would not dare.
Here ends the path ambition's seeds begun:
A youth naïve has claimed an epic soul,
A pauper has a hero's weapons won,
And riches honour earned, become a goal.
The hero spoke; aghast the cities stand,
Who learned the world was cracked at her command.
I dedicate this to John Wellington Wells, from Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Sorceror. Consider this a Spoiler Alert, if you need one.
Here lies a master of the evil trade.
Hearts would he twist, to fit the smallest need.
Him turncoats sought to have their friends betrayed,
And honest hearts retained, to "do the deed".
Here drowned a a mage already far too deep,
Whose ill-sent ships at last had all come in,
Whose dolled-up sirens echoed through his sleep,
When all their conquests met to do him in.
Here stopped a heart that changed in its last beat,
And lungs that said "Recant!" with their last breath.
The pallid liver found it feared defeat
Too much to wait — to die to worse than death.
We thank the world this body stays at rest;
Its soul is still — it passed the final test.
I wanted to post a sonnet for the Ides of March (the anniversary of Julius Caesar’s death), but I couldn’t find the one I thought I had. So here’s one that at least starts with someone dying.
The tomb is sealed, the lord of Darkness slain,
The sound of funereal dirges dies away.
The victory of Good is now made plain.
In years to come they'll celebrate this day.
I was a villain's captive; now I'm free.
I held for evil hate; now I must ask
What in this world of good is left for me,
When all the things I knew are decades past.
I did learn things beneath an evil throne:
From where the minions come, and why they serve;
How best to bury flesh and blood and bone;
Against the end, what must stay in reserve.
I'd hate to harm the world as it harmed me,
But there's no harmless choices I can see.