After growing up under the shadow of Heppenstall Steel Mill in Pittsburgh, Pa., I have spent much of my life near the sea, including 10 years in the Caribbean, which serves as the setting for my three published mystery novels, Full Body Rub, Looking for Lisa, and Looking for Lauren. On occasion, I've gone back "home," trying to fit into my old neighborhood. It has been alleged that I've had many aliases, none of which I have acknowledged. I am no one else.
[From my unpublished manuscript SHADOW SELF/DANTE DREAM]
In mid summer, mid life,
I hike a narrow trail. In the mountains
I feel free, but today the weight of years
bends my purpose. I struggle for breath.
A fog swiftly spreads, obscures my feet.
I stop and totter,
afraid to step, afraid to fall.
Something flashes through the trees.
I jump, distrusting my eyes
that glimpse a panther, sleek, black, shimmering
like water from the old pool of Siloh.
I sneeze, blinking eyes shut for a moment,
open them to nothing but fog,
yet sense the panther at my back shifting shape.
Her breath is sweet as gardenias.
It warms my neck, my cheek.
The back of my knees tingle.
I lose balance.
Maybe I fall.
Later, I am somewhere else, someone else.
A figure appears on a far ridge, waving to me.
The sun blazes behind him. I am almost blind.
The shadow turns and walks away.
I follow into the dark wood
as if we spoke, agreed,
as if we joined futures,
as if we knew each other from birth.
He takes my hand.
We leap into summer smoke.
Again I lose breath.
hand in hand
layers upon layers of night.
I yearn for light, my lover,
the life I knew,
but all is falling.
Nothing to hold,
I can no longer care,
hope or despair
Before us, a sign dangles on a rusted chain,
one end scorched, barely legible:
"Abandon all hope . . . ."
He presses me to him,
covers every pore of my skin.
I am suffocating.
Somewhere between fright and faint,
I shut my eyes tight
and wish for sleep, for stillness,
for all sensations to cease.
He leads me through the gate.
Voices crescendo and crash like sea swells.
Brown shapes pocked with darkness stir.
I jam my ears then feel my pulse
booming with their cries.
He tells me these are the ones
who lived only for themselves.
From somewhere inside me comes
a maniac's laugh. Who doesn't
live for himself only?
Their faces scream, change shape.
Their features are a swarm of wasps;
stingers stitch pores like a sewing machine.
"On, onward," he orders
the boatman of the dark lake.
I sense I am alone in the boat.
All goes blank again.
©2016 Joseph Lisowski