CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Shadow, Tin, Shadow
Valerie Wohlfeld



Shadow, Tin: I married my husband because I was afraid of sleep’s eclipse: the eye’s planet rolling to oblivion behind its shadow of lid; I left him because I had a dream his mouth tasted of tin: All our reasons, if they are pure, move us like heavy animals being led in sleep.

Shadow: The night’s pitch is an embroidery of eyes, a stare which does not blink. The myriad eyes of the dead who are acquainted with the visions of the necromancer; each eye wishes to lodge into the anterior of the soul: to enter and hold itself like a nettle in skin, as painful to receive and bear as to draw it back out. By whose gentle hand is the dark laced with its needlework of unclosing eyes? I asked myself as I traveled in the gloaming where cloud and light unwove themselves to only cloud, the nettle secure in my soul’s innermost chamber.

Tin: The touch of his lips tasted of tin. Even the rain tastes a little of rust. Why did I hasten away from his embrace, my tongue moving in my mouth, collecting aftertastes of molder and fust from the dream of his mouth?

Shadow: A wise woman met me at her door, waiting. Her fingers were uncultivated, crooked with the smell of wild, growing things: sweet chives, mint, lemon verbena. Each finger blossomed from a different, vagrant seed. To her a question required no more than itself. Why is it lovers enter unlit places together? Is it lovers or darkness which crave each other’s bodies? she said. I thought to myself: Without moonlight, without sunlight, the nettle finds its way. If a muse sleeps, why do lovers collect fragments of her dream? Do you doubt the world creaks in disrepair, axis turned by the sweat of unsuspecting lovers? she said.
     She held her fingers out to me, an offering. I could not refuse; I shut my eyes to taste one twisted forefinger. It was bitter, bitter. But then its aftertaste sweetened my mouth. Do you recognize it? she said. I shook my head. She laughed, her mouth beautiful and full. She sacrificed her misshapen fingers to gain these fruitful lips, I thought. She pushed me out the door, laughing.

Tin: In dream he washed over me, his body water, the same as my own. I was a weathervane riddled with rust, pointing and turning in wind. If my body desired loss, oxidation, it was because the rain loved itself as it rang against the tin. Did I say his body was water, the same as my own?

Shadow: Once, as a child, I moved in revolving doors of darkness a woman released to motion from three small spins of my body, black cloth wrapped over my eyes. The doors turned all their openings towards me, tilted darkness longed to take me in. I could smell the animal in its hay and dung, waiting for its tail. I moved, entering from darkness into darkness, to clumsily pin its sweet hide back together.

Shadow: Even if the choice is made to remove the nettle, it must be remembered that the nettle is imaginary, as the physical boundaries of the soul it resides in are themselves imagined. The finest tweezers, forged of pure silver, will find it difficult to extract metaphor.

Shadow: Do monks or God choose the black cloth the holy dress in? Sinners and widows greet death in their black gowns, too. Death, then, links the holy and the wretched, not black. Death, celibate host who wishes to sleep with his guest of bones in the purest sense of the word, sleep. Sleep, where the coffin’s lightless cell rests the body as though in prayer and the mind traverses tunnels of thought like wind in a garden’s random passages lifting a dropped rose to flight.
     In shadow I might release the nettle, I might become the rose on its small wind. Just as easily, I might discover myself wearing black robes, waiting for death, that bachelor-virgin with his fetish for the body with its eyelids threaded shut, to usher me into the earth (which is always warm, always the color of velvet striated in gloom, always awaiting the next dead one’s presence even as you are arriving).

Tin: All things worth knowing are not known until they are no longer useful to the knower: I found in my arms many things of tin and darkness, none of them the one I had left, the one I longed for now, he whose lips tasted of tin and water. I lay in the open with my mouth wide to acquire the rain. I wanted to hold in my mouth the flavor of rust. My mouth filled with rain; I had to spit it out to breathe, and still I had an appetite for tin.
     I know the answer to the wise woman now. Her finger had tasted of tin, sour, acrid, biting. Afterwards, held in my closed mouth, it sweetened unexpectedly. She had fed me a little of how love might be flavored, if ground bit by bit to powder and taken from crooked fingers. I laughed, my mouth nearly as full and perfect as the wise woman’s.

Shadow: Always, it ends with shadow, all things gather themselves for this purpose. The blood-dark womb wanes in light, waxes in shadow; when a woman conceives to extinguish shadow, she relinquishes herself and her unborn to shadow: we create more death to relieve death. Even the urgency of light is to burn itself back to darkness.
     What do I do with the taste of tin, water, and rain swelling my throat? The rain will stop, I will lie here until it does. When I am empty, I will open my mouth and darkness will come in.

Shadow: Flowers desire rain, seeds darkness. I move on in shadow, not knowing if the nettle (safe in its vault of soul) is flower or seed; if I should open to rain or to darkness. I move slowly, accepting now rain, now darkness.