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Shadows

Each night this house sinks into the shadows
under its weightof love and fear and pity.
Each morning it floats up again so lightly
it seems attached to sky instead of earth,
a place where we will always go on living
and there will be no dead to leave behind.

But when we think of whom we've left behind
already in the ever-hungry shadows,
even in the morning hum of living
we pause a minute and are fillwed with pity
for the lovely children of earth
who run up and down the stairs so lightly

and who weave their careless songs so lightly
through the hedges which they play behind
that the fruits and flowers of the earth
rise up on their stems above the shadows.
Perhaps even an apple can feel pity;
perhaps the lilac wants to go on living.

In this house where we have all been living
we bind the family together lightly
with knots made equally of love and pity
and the knowledge that we'll leave behind
only partial memories, scraps of shadows,
trinkets of our years upon the earth.

I think about my father in the earth
as if it were a room in which he's living,
as if it were a house composed of shadows
where he remembers those he loved not lightly,
where he remembers what he left behind.
He had a great capacity for pity

but told me that I mustn't waste my pity.
on him---he'd had his share of life on earth,
and he was happy just to leave behind
daughters of daughters who would go on living.
So he seemed to leave us almost lightly,
closing the curtains which were stitched with shadows.

Always save your pity for the living
who walk the eggshell crust of earth so lightly,
in front of them, behind them, only for shadows.

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