Shadowfolk by John Philip Johnson

There was a castle and creatures inside
who thought of themselves as human.
During the day, they pretended
they had bodies, and at night they gasped
for light in the flickering torches.

The wind was heaped in piles
like bread along their hedgerows.
Time was a line of braying cattle,
sluggish in the moonlight, halting,
and love settled like dust in the soil.

The sunlight they had shoveled
as yellow sludge against the ice
was not enough that year. Winter
was monstrous, the darkness fattened,
all the shadowfolk were absorbed.

The lost ones leached off the living
for a while, the way memories feed
on the present moment. Swelling
to the size of green apples.
Dropping off with a cry.


John Philip Johnson has work in F&SF, Asimov’s, Rattle, Apex, Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction and elsewhere, including Ted Kooser’s newspaper column, “American Life in Poetry.” He has had Pushcart, Best of Web, and numerous Rhysling nominations, and his comic book of graphic poetry, Stairs Appear in a Hole Outside of Town, was second place in last year’s Elgin Awards. He says he would love to go to Mars if his wife would come with him.

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