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A Paradox of Shadows

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My first book of poems, glacial dreams, was published 4 years ago this month. It was a collection of poetry spanning 20 years, from college on. This new volume contains only poems written since glacial dreams came out. The tone is a bit darker perhaps, exploring the struggles of parenting and the loneliness of life, yet still the hope of Spring and rebirth.

The title a paradox of shadows comes from one of my lesser poems, written in the darkness of a sleepless night. The meaning is that there are few singular things in our lives. The lion’s mane jellyfish on the cover is both beautiful and dangerous; a life event can be painful yet inspiring; shadows are both dark and light together. As John Bunyan wrote in The Pilgrim’s Progress, “Dark clouds bring waters, when the bright bring none.” And so the trials and hurts of our lives shape us and ultimately strengthen us, and also enable us to carry the burdens of others when they are in need.

Through the shadows of my life I am thankful for my wife Deborah, who always seems to show me back to the light.

Hold on to the good.

Erik Black, February 2016






“forest bathing” in Japanese




scenty pine needles fresh

fox on the hillside

hawk in the tree

oak or maple

too far to see


i stand naked

no barrier between

the wood, the wild

and me

bathing in forests of

leaf and flower

bark, twig and tree


like them i will come clean

and be renewed come Spring




ode to the opera girl

for one seen at the Tempest while in high school, years ago



dark hair and dark eyes

brooding more of a tempest

than Prospero with his books

or Ariel with her starlit hair

why did i fail to speak

three times we passed,

smiled, gazed,

i looked for you but you were gone

remembered now only in verse


i walk on paths untaken

i remember dreams undreamed

i sing the saudade







i have darkness in me

will you illuminate me?

shine upon the shadows

fall upon them and they will flee


i have sins in me

will you forgive

can i forget what i have done and seen?

you will forgive and forget


i have demons in me

will you drive them out?

sent into the fattened swine

driven off the cliff, Legion no more







you say it’s just water under the bridge

but i know each tear i cried

the flood, tumultuous in its misery

the bridge still stands, not swept away

but the waters yet flow

and i know each tear




outrunning the seasons



i started in Winter

running to keep warm

keep the frost from bitting my toes

and my nose

i ran across ice and snow

and through the slush mush

i ran through the Spring thaw

crocus creeping up

say hello but i can’t stop

now the green all around

i gotta move faster

than all the world growing

high Summer will slow the grass

but not the bugs

they fly everywhere

the heat unbearable to me

but i run on faster than

brown death

on into Autumn

golden red crowns in the treetops

laying down their crowns for me to crunch


i like this season the best

but now i keep running hoping to outrun Winter







i touch the earth

loamy humus crumbly

i touch everything


the bones of my ancestors

dust of future generations

i touch them all

in this one clump of soil


every bone, every

drop of blood

i touch them all

every breath

of every plant

and animal

and plant again

i touch them all







children are the receding waves

flotsam brought in and left on the beach

but the tide is out far

i hear the gulls but find no comfort

their cries a reminder

of low tide and receding waves




the wood between the worlds



i am lingering between worlds

between birth and death

where i’ve been and where i am going

what i’ve done and will do and could have should have

between breath and the exhale

between yesterday and forever


it is an unbearable tension







half-man of the forest

swinging branch to branch, vine to vine,

tethered by living tendrils

ever reaching, never reaching




tick tock



i am weary of measurements

minutes and miles,

scales, performance, charts

space and time and life





saudade #4


for iain


i was young and you were younger

walking talking passing times together

i held your hand but could not hold you

couldn’t keep you from growing up, growing on your own

i would have kept you from the darker paths

but you found them on your own


you are young and i am older now

memory, dream and regret my companions

you might have kept me from the darker paths

but you did not know, you do not know

do i still make you smile, laugh?

it used to always be so, but now i do not know

if i grew old and died

would you miss me,

traveling your paths without me

if i am not with you now, then it would be the same

my death and life the same to you


i remember regret

and dream sorrow

dream of what may not be

i did not say will not, for still i have

hope for you and me




flower and tree


for Her


i would not call you a flower

though beautiful you are,

poised with grace, quivering in the wind

poets would have painted you in days gone by

lavished praise upon you

until even the hardest heart would sigh

but i call you not a flower


rather i would say your beauty is like a tree

oak or redwood, to far outlive me

less showy but more stately

less moved by the winds of fashion

for even in the naked winter there is beauty






upon the recent mudslides in Washington state


rivers of earth and wood,

water as medium

all is eaten, moved

there is no warning, no siren

to warn sailors or call them,

before they are dashed upon the rocks

even mountains are moved

how can we not be?




the reaper



i cradle the scythe

hope and dreams in my hands

the past and future held together

i am the reaper of gold

i am come for my wages




saudade for a poet



my words and rhymes

moved the heart of humanity

and opened a bright chasm

in the fortifications of our minds

but life stepped in, shadows to comfort and diminish

the dreaming poet

i see dimly now, is it my cataract eyes

or the blanket pulled to smother and dispel the cold truth?

shall i be warm and numb and blind,

or walk naked and cold in the hard light of illumination,

fed only by the ember in me?

i eat the embers to warm me, and i speak fire







we pass each other through the day

many times, nodding and smiling

sometimes averting our eyes

remembering the shame, the lacking

of strength, stamina on the path

in good times and bad we met, only in passing

i am not so vain to linger




for fireflies


seen while driving home


we glimpse each other at the speed of light,

yours and mine

though i travel only a hundred clicks an hour

the glooming dusk my sleep and your waking






on a slumpy day


dark waters trembling

shadow fish lurking

i step in and am engulfed




the black river


ebola means “black river” in Lingala language


black mamba through the heart of darkness

serpentine byway

tears of the forest

pouring out

bringer of life

you gave your name to death

all who hear you weep and sigh





saudade #5

2-2-14 at church


who is worthy?

none but You

You set me apart

and now a part of me is Yours

but parts of me are scattered, lost

torn apart


is that what You did?

it began a Monday night in October

so long ago

i began before then and will end after now

i am not whole

so much lost long ago

must i lose the parts to be made whole again?

i must become less so You can be more




ode to Spring



Winter’s bane has left the heart bare

pale memories of flowers and bees

the noise of life

now mine is the dread brown

not of soil but of death

oh to rejoice in the grassy green blades again

till they become a new bane

and i find myself pining for the cold blast

and the long hibernation of Winter




oblivion her veil



oblivion her veil

in morning light

too early for days of dreaming




the wheel



my mind swims in

circles, in circles

one upon another

through another

always moving never arriving

never resting




renter’s tree


for a tree on Kensington Avenue


stolen apples from an aged tree

Baldwin if i know, though i don’t

sweet sour crisp perfect

memories before i was a dream


stolen apples, though the tree can spare

plenty for worm and winter-must

my arms are apple-full

scent heady of pies and tarts


stolen be your apples and kisses

carry away the scent and joy

time and worm will steal us all

but mine are the silver apples of the moon




the few



will i die as i lived?

friendless, soulless

the barren moor of my heart

holding ash from fires long spent

i love and am loved,

at least a few,

but so few


unfinished mournings

i had not cried my last

but what is that now


this sorrow i cannot share

i would not burden the loved and the loving

for they are few

so few






at writer’s group


what if we are Pandora’s box

released upon the world?

doom of man and beast


some twit of an animal

loosed the hinge,

lifted lid, dread unsealed


out we pour and fly

row on row, hut upon hut

till the earth cannot contain us


Pandora herself lies trampled

or devoured, wasted

upon the shore of humanity


and we the beasts, who fear nothing

but death, or diminishing worth,

a new box make of our bone and sinew




dark night of the soul



i am entering the long night,

the dark night of the soul

i do not forsake the light

but it has left me alone

if i do not see the dawn

know you are loved

more than i have shown you

perhaps when my shell is cracked open

the love inside will pour out

for you to see

or perhaps there is no more

and i am deceived by myself

perhaps the other was right

and i am useless

perhaps all my faults are all there is

and the rest is merely delusion

if so then i have deceived you also

all of us with our masks and shells

but you remain true


i thank you for that




the paintings of his life


3:01 pm


blue green sky

single tree limbs reaching clouds covering

green green grass goes on forever and

ever into night and horizons beyond the break of day

canvas folds


musics in my head

dizzy glockenspiel

now scenes of a park bench

and all who sit there

lives connected by weather worn boards

pigeons and squirrels

and small creatures unseen

crosswinds and newspapers

curvature of spines

nursery rhymes how do they go

a windup clock to mark the years

songs i heard long ago

a time of innocence, confidence

wandering city streets

meander through museums

into Impressionism

dots and blobs and dabs

pieces of me on canvas

blood, bile, sweat and tears

now i am touching every painting

adding my fingerprints to those of the creator

whose prints are on me





blood moon

9-28-15 after a super-blood moon eclipse the night before


i saw the moon rise

over the highway bridge

swollen with pride

at the coming event

when all would bend their necks,

strain their eyes,

just to see her

she is unchanged

yet we see her larger than life

her face blushed

when the light is dimmed

our night lover

covered only with our shadow




paradox of leaves



they pass across my vision

like sunlit dappled leaves

falling on this crisp Autumn day

i hold them for moments only

each one a treasure, but gone

before they touch the ground

i feel myself the constant one

but i also am spinning

dizzy in the evening breeze

night is coming, and soon winter

hush of death and crush of leaf-fall

but i live in the dappled falling leaves






for Eden, on a dark day for both of us


and the silences

between us


the shouts within

i gaze past

at the highway passed

but my thoughts are her

the words wound

whether they are not or true

she is young, she will forget them

but i being old and foolish

have kept them all

to fill the silences




something frozen, thawing

Autumn/Winter 2015


always winter in my soul

something frozen, thawing

the loves they are

coming and going

away from me

sliding away

i cannot hold them enough

though they melt my frosted heart

i fear to bite their Spring joy

and so they slide away

and i am left with arms

outstretched to them





a paradox of shadows

2-5-16 after midnight


light falls, illuminates all

even darkness is defined

as absence of light

the shadow is nothing

but a measurement

formless but revealing the form which made it

which is also not light but merely reflection

perhaps even our great sun

reflects only some greater light beyond

and we only in the shadow of light






she drove the mistake

through my bleeding heart

had i been a vampire

it would have finished me

but i being human

died all the same




Risoud Forest


the Risoud Forest in Switzerland is renowned for producing excellent wood for violins


the singing trees called to his youth

but they will outlive him

some to ougrow, to fall by axe or wind

some moonlit future night

some though are caught now

their song still within them

to be shaped and released by the maestro

in his shop

and the music shaped and released again

by the maestro on his stage




the kite



the maker stitched me together

skin and bones, sticks and cloth

his dreams put in me,

breath and wind,

cloud billows far above

and light beyond

i was made to dream

and inspire dreams in all who gaze on me


first flight came early Spring,

came in like the lion

the wind roaring past the trees

i dreamed of flying, of being

freedom tethered by woven string


end of Summer cam the end of me

a gusty day i raced away

but fell in the doldrums

caught in outstretched branches

it reaching up, i falling down

it meant no harm but the wound was mortal

flesh and bone, silk and stick

torn and broken


my body buried without ceremony

though not without tears

the flesh for decay

but the spirit soars

beyond sight

and billowy clouds

to the light beyond

i live in the dreams of the dreamer

who made me

the one who made me to fly

A Paradox of Shadows

This is my second poetry book, following glacial dreams. Here are more poems of nature, dreams, children, and the struggles and hopes of life. For all the poems I write, there are many more in the pool of dreams waiting for ink and inspiration. These are my gift to the world. Thanks for reading them, I hope some of my poems will inspire and put into words what others are feeling and dreaming. Hold on to the good!

  • ISBN: 9781311264732
  • Author: Erik Black
  • Published: 2016-02-15 19:05:07
  • Words: 2196
A Paradox of Shadows A Paradox of Shadows