City of Shadow

Diane Sahms-Guarnieri


New year moon’s disappearance

—Jungian shadow pervasive—

tattooed inner-arm of a “clawing dragon” 

he never slew and we are pouring through

under sun-drenched stain glass palettes’

intense noiseless colors

even poppy pod greens

& floral orange-reds

shine unapologetic beauty. 


Eyes of saints and martyrs stare. 

Your forty-year-old body, asleep now; 

milky satin sheets drip icy, 

until the last Amen. 

Tombstones lean, push toward us— 

Atropos’s unavoidable scissors.

Limb-needled-pines, each a sundial

cast sun-slow-shadow, marking days 

and years, circling time, except 

sunless days of hopelessness or nights 

when drugged shadow

blends into inescapable darkness.

Wind’s toppling waves beat wings

flapping clothes, stinging cold. 

Shoes’ pulsations parade frozen 

field, quiet dead listening

in underground chambers. 


Deep abyss knocking from below, up against

unheeded demons rushing, roaring, up toward

injected liquid of another spoon-cooked life. 

Updraft of untold prophecies,

high above a mother’s heartbeat echoes

aching sobs—reverently lift 

nevermore on raven wing. 

Pines-fallen-litter, rust

scattered needles—everywhere. 


and his Irish glitzy, overbearing sham-rock wife

two children: boy and girl, a rich man’s family

nightshift’s textile Spinner, whose pink and black eyes

froze and flashed as an albino rat’s in the dumpster, 

talked to himself like a crack addict’s scratch. 

Walked through dense forest of decaying thoughts. 

Overworked body—worn as a foot path. 

Spent life filling and emptying shovelfuls of money 

into mobbed up, unpayable debts. In way over his ginger head,

so deeply dug as a mole, he couldn’t star nose himself out of.

Adults around me tried to justify, rationalize, but—Does anyone

really know the inner turning of another’s Rolette wheel mind? 

No wonder one night with a gang of rattlesnakes fanging

venomous fear as nightmare—

He leapt from the edge of air. 

Driven body crashed Cadillac; mind’s shattered windshield;

headlights smashed sockets. Pocketed coins rolled marbles 

across sliding face of Delaware River’s ice. 

Long-lined fall from Walt Whitman’s bridge. 

Now, only reflectors sparkle red suicidal warning

through cloud-dropped mist. Washed up along the Camden

side, under winter willow’s unraveled skeins, unspun dreams. 

Mildred and Lucy Mae

Utterly soil-quiet, apple seed eyes where light easily passes

the way sunshine leaves golden wake image on a soul. 

Long whisper-braid crawls rattle-snake

down ladder-length spine. 

Drawn lines rush waterfall jawline. 

Nile River flows basket of unforgetfulness. 

Rib-bones curve sides of erosion’s bank. 

Wounded feather-arms. Gypsy moth tears. 

Infant shoes set bronze beside ceramic bible: Lord’s Prayer, 

legible lines. Tongue sealed inside boulder-stopped cave. 

Voice box—never pried open since

Lucy Mae’s baby-casket closed. 

The empty space within

grows out of disappearance. 

About the Author


Diane Sahms-Guarnieri is the author of four poetry collections, most recently The Handheld Mirror of the Mind (Kelsay Press, 2018) and Images of Being; Light’s Battered Edge; and Night Sweat. She has been published in many magazines and is poetry editor at North of Oxford, an online literary journal.