He is seated in the first darkness
of his body sitting in the lighter dark
of the room,
the greater light of day behind him,
beyond the windows, where
Time is the country.
His body throws two shadows:
One onto the table
and the piece of paper before him,
and one onto his mind.
One makes it difficult for him to see
the words he’s written and crossed out
on the paper. The other
keeps him from recognizing
another master than Death. He squints.
He reads: Does the first light hide
inside the first dark?
He reads: While all bodies share
the same fate, all voices do not.
— Li-Young Lee, In His Own Shadow
Feeling reclusive lately, too reclusive for the part played in this life, I’ve grown weary of online planning meetings and year’s end introspection. I’ve begun to reach out to the world again in earnest, just to be sure it’s still there. I’m a social being trapped in an introvert’s mind, or is it the other way around? We humans are complex creatures.
Amongst the pile of books crying for attention was a book of poetry, purchased eagerly, stacked deliberately, shuffled downward reluctantly. We prioritize finishing what we started, after all, and then some other pretty thing catches our attention, and soon that work of enchantment is put aside for weeks on end, biding its time while we squander our own. Until the moment of reckoning when it surfaces again.
Sitting in the morning darkness, quietly shuffling with a fresh cup of coffee back to a reading chair, my mind rebelled against the non-fiction staples demanding my attention. Mind craving sustenance of a different kind, like vitamin A to help my vision, I find what’s been calling to me all along. In the growing ambient light of morning, sipping coffee and focusing my mind for the cadence of poetry, I’m quietly floored by a simple stack of words, set just so. And forgot I’d had coffee at all.
While all bodies share the same fate, all voices do not. The spell cast upon us through poetry is in the way it slays you in these moments of truth, a mirror of words reflecting back at you. Recovering my senses, I set about finding my own voice again, knowing the steepness of the climb before me, feeling my own shadow and the lesson to the core.