Altar of Shadow

Becoming scared all over again – rising – into the night – to steal – what we could – to burn what – we could – to break – what we could – with ax-handles mallets – toys from the yard – hitting walls – hard to harden – our knuckles – alive – with stars – and firewood – smoke as – smooth as – shadows through – streetlamp light – emerging revealed if – only – a moment – bathed in silver – as if we were clean.

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Becoming scared all over again – inhaling embers –of prescription pill powder – on a neighbor’s mirror – whose mother was a nurse – looking up symptoms – in medical books – may cause drowsiness dizziness slurring – do not take with alcohol – hold on tight – both hands on the rails – centrifugal force cannot keep us down – timing the release – just the right time – to mark off with chalk – the shape of our fall.

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Becoming scared all over again – my big brother on his knees – like a pew on the couch – head on a pillow – in our mother’s lap – she scratches his back – she smooths his hair – his eyes like shot glasses burning with fuel – outrunning the static – from the hallway closet – our father’s dead short wave – tuned to a frequency – my brother still hears – in spaces – and dashes – etched – in scars – across both fists.

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Becoming scared all over again – on your stomach in the ditch – with a handful of rocks – a head full of smoke – the midnight traffic on Guadalupe Trail – a pilgrimage of candles fading from sight – you throw on faith – to defy your fate – two brake lights flash – two red eyes burn – raising your head – a tire iron blurs – you’re running tumbling flying through weeds – the silhouette behind you – a half-step ––

behind– an owl or raven or bruja or demon – like your grandmother warned –  if you summon the darkness –  it will turn its head – you pray to the portrait in the hallway box – wristwatch ashtray thin tarnished sword – a crack in a fence – opens wide as a door – you roll –  inside to the opposite – side –  the street lamp pulses  – a silver candle  –  an altar of – shadow – kneeling – head low –  you offer your own.

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Becoming scared all over again – slipping home – through a – hole – in the screen – your mother asleep – beneath painted-glass windows – her silent Mary – watches you pass – the dimes from your pockets – like stars on the floor – toads in the ditch – finish singing their song – or maybe crying – for skins in the street – casualties of crawling – toward moths toward light – dreaming like seeds – embedded in clay.



Harrison Candelaria Fletcher is the author of the award-winning Descanso For My Father and Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams. His lyric essays and prose poems have appeared widely in such venues as New Letters, TriQuarterly, and Passages North. He teaches at Colorado State University.