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Shadow and I

Milan by Suzanne Coley
Just where my long road started out, it ends.
I stand alone and see my childhood town
Calling its kids and saying goodnight to friends.
And now the ruffled window shades draw down.

Old men and women, slumped in easy chairs,
fold up their papers, yawn, and cease to talk.
I know that only a tireless streetlamp cares
Where I, a ghost with fisted pockets, walk.

Shadow and I, we play a little game 
Of hide-and-seek, as we have always done.
Ten years ago I had a boy's nickname,
Voiced in the streets and known by everyone.

That name, those years, companions that I had --
Channing the fiddler and the girls next door,
The roughneck gang that drove my father mad,
Trampling his flowers in their relentless war --

Where are they now, so dear and out of date?
Old men and women yawn but do not stir
The burned-out embers, and the hour is late
Someone is calling but I can't see her.

"Sneakthief!" she cries.  "You've waited here too long,
Thinking of them, beside an old streetlamp.
Shadow will fall on you and he will throng
Your reckless head and beat you for a tramp.

"And when you go back home -- to your own home --
No one will know you.  Peering through a crack 
Familiar eyes will say, 'Too bad you've come,'
Familiar lips will mutter, 'Don't come back.'"

Going Back by Donald Peterson
The Paris Review, 1959


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