Finally, the Shadow (shwt)

(inside the hem)

world the black

world the blank margin

there is no margin in the world

no place where the soul

no place where the mind

the dead animals



in this margin

that is


lost time collects in the creases

bone-crushed minute

diamond dust off a second

dust off an hour

dust it off! mantel of time!

would that I were outside my minute

(no death there)

we arrive & there's a corpse of an hour, it asks us

what happened here in this stinking


say: by my heart's wish I constructed a city —

             at the foot of Mt. Muzri

in the countryside surrounding Nineveh —
     and gave its name as Dur-Sharrukin

lost my shedu in the river

And in the Upper Paleolithic, we found ourselves

wild onager, red deer, sheep, goat, fox, gazelle, pig, cow, bird, clam, crab, tortoise and

snail.  We ate them all.

Ate chrysanthemums, ate nasturtiums, every blossom, grass, anther and nut

Flower how hun-

gry you make me      swim swim

to the river in asthmatic

sunlight         colllect wild seeds there

By the river, the corpse of an hour, it asks us: what happened here.

   say: we saw history

the rocks and grasses sang themselves into houses

geo-rubble turned to hut

we wandered the ruthless, splendid labyrinths laid out in green,

gold and blue, tangles of trees, of grassland, water, animal, weather, and sand 

Married the river, married the rock, gold dug out was the dowry

and soon the hem of a train, steam-trail rising like wedding-dress dust

Soon so many persons made so many person things

till it seemed all that was left of the world was human

We built roads, built bridges, little plastic dolls with eyes that open and shut, seeded clouds

and nanocrystals and turned the heavens; made

infrared imaging capabilities on CRYSTAL reconnaissance satellites

made the military black world

How quickly sound travels through these acified oceans!

How quickly we folded spring into summer!

Constructed bio-available time!

Ate the quail, woodcock, the turtle, fattened liver, the veal calf

our tongues decaying

one by one

by my heart's

orifact, Mercury mouth

in the Holocene Epoch of the Quarternary Period in the Cenozoic Era of geologic time

Walk away

Like atmospheric lace

dust-dress of the world never settles                        And inside the hem

winter steals a mouse

                                   see how the air rises, sky-kissing


Eleni Sikelianos is the author of six books of poetry, most recently Body Clock and The California Poem, as well as a hybrid memoir, The Book of Jon. Her translation of Jacques Roubaud's Exchanges on Light appeared in 2009. She has been the recipient of awards from the National Endownment for the Arts, the The Fulbright Fellowships, The National Poetry Series, New York Foundation for the Arts, Princeton University's Seeger Fellowship, and the Gertrude Stein Awards for Innovative American Writing, among others. Sikelianos teaches in the Naropa Summer Writing Program and the New England College MFA Program in Poetry as well as the Creative Writing Program at the University of Denver, which she also directs. She shares her days with the novelist Laird Hunt and their daugher Eva Grace.