"Theater of Shadows" by Derek N. Otsuji

To say that I loved this would be an incredible understatement…. enjoy my friends!

American Life in Poetry: Column 402
Shadow play is among the few free entertainments left, and it must go on delighting children all around the globe. Derek N. Otsuji lives in Hawaii, and here’s his reminiscence.

Theater of Shadows

Nights we could not sleep—
           summer insects singing in dry heat,
                       short-circuiting the nerves—

Grandma would light a lamp,
           at the center of our narrow room,
                          whose clean conspiracy of light

whispered to the tall blank walls,
            illuminating them suddenly
                     like the canvas of a dream.

Between the lamp and wall
           her arthritic wrists grew pliant
                     as she molded and cast

improbable animal shapes moving
           on the wordless screen:
                         A blackbird, like a mynah, not a crow.

A dark horse’s head that could but would not talk.
           An ashen rabbit (her elusive self)
                      triggered in snow

that a quivering touch (like death’s)
             sent scampering into the wings
                           of that little theater of shadows

that eased us into dreams.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Derek N. Otsuji. Reprinted from Descant, 2011, Vol. 50, by permission of Derek N. Otsuji and the publisher. Introduction copyright 2012 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

American Life in Poetry ©2006 The Poetry Foundation
Contact: alp@poetryfoundation.org
This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

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