My Shadow Book
Chapter one: an excerpt
The Shadow Man said I could follow him. I told him I had been in the light for too long. There was still time, he said. I could step beyond the sun.
He took out his notebook. A black notebook emblazoned with a black sun, gray shading around the sun’s points, demarcating it through bright shadow. He made notes while he was looking at me like he was doing a blind contour drawing. Eventually I would learn to write this way. Write without looking away, write without thinking, write like it was my job, my calling, my duty. And it was. Like a blind contour drawing.
The swastika is an ancient black sun. It belonged to everyone. The Nazis appropriated it. They knew of us. They thought they were Shadow Men. They were wrong. Horribly wrong.
In the city, each building is a pregnant Angel. They wave and bend, fecund with half-men, half-divines. They make only heroes, but born into the city, walking in their shadows, we all lose our pedigree.
To the untrained eye, each building is a tombstone. They read epigraphs in the windows, they see block letters, lit up at night, in the deep eyes of the Angels, Angel teeth, Angel smiles, Angel navels, Angel birth canals, Angel anuses. They take everything, everywhere, for pleasure, and for breeding, people of the city, half-gods.
The black star is a black sun. For the Shadow Men in other systems and galaxies, there is always the burning center to obscure and harness. Always light and always shadow. Always the space between, liminal, interstitial, bardo. This is where we work. Our God Janus. Our month January. Looking forward into the light of the future. Looking back into the light of the past. The present is shadow.
Every code and mode is open to a Shadow Man. Mao suspected our existence and copped some of our methods describing the basic guerrilla strategy as one that “must be adjusted to the enemy situation, the terrain, the existing lines of communication, the relative strengths, the weather, and the situation of the people.” That’s what we do.
Shadow Women are the strongest of us.
Over time the name Shadow Men found prevalence, but women have always made up more than half our ranks, often the best of us. They have always retained the ghost the longest and for this reason many have suffered free from posterity.
Oh Anna Kavan,
Oh Sister Anna, a Shade born and a Shade to her grave.
She did her work, our work, by means exceptional and painful...
The people of the sun are exceptionally cruel to women, which makes all of our work more important. She adapted to walk in the light by finding her secret name, her nom de guerre, and armed with a fucking bazooka, she fought to the end.
She was always baiting, teasing out the ghost and trying to walk in the light as shadowed as possible. She began one of her greatest short stories thusly:
The new, the great, the divine star is like to other. It alone has the glory, the godlike power to create new forms of life and a world of its own... Now the star is man’s new god, producing changes unprecedented in his planetary environment, setting in motion undreamed of chains of events, destroying delicate balances which took milleniums to evolve.
is a poet, essayist, and novelist who lives in Athens, GA (where he received a PhD in Comparative Literature) with his wife, son, two dogs, and a cat named Whiskey. His work has appeared in The Exquisite Corpse, Guernica, The Believer, Literary Hub, and Vegetarian Times Magazine.