Mathias Svalina lives in Lincoln, Nebraska. He has recent or forthcoming poems in Blackbird, Hotel America and Pleiades.
Shade: new buildings require fresh blood, or, with reservations,
a boy’s shadow trapped in the foundation.
Shade: by candlelight the solid outline of the body flickers,
splinters into a wavering spirit.
History: 1144; a nun sees a dead boy in the woods near Norwich
& continues walking, then a traveller sees him & townspeople bury the
boy in the woods.
History: a week later his family visits the grave, disinters the
body, presumably cries, & reburies him in the same spot.
History: then a month later his father accuses local Jews of cruci-
fying the boy. The rotting body is translated to a monks’ cemetery
near the newly built cathedral & becomes a pilgrimage destination.
Sun: even your fingertip has the power to blot the sun.
Lincoln: in this city one can see no shadows at noon.
History: a child in blue pants tries to bury his shadow with white
gravel from the garden path.
Shade: even now my shadow waits for the light, for the hot
touch of a scabbed wound.
Sun: try not to step on your shadow on the sidewalk.
Warning: Gravediggers! Tie your shadows to your waists lest they
fall into an open grave & become rebellious & tired of ignominy.
History: there was a crucifixion fetish: boys & girls piercing their
hands & feet in filthy ecstasy.
Shade: not only the building but the shadow of the building.
Lincoln: 1255; Lincoln townspeople accuse a Jew of killing a boy
in ritual. Under torture the Jew admits to a pan-European Jewish con-
spiracy of blood leaking through the shadows.
History: noonday sun casting swinging shadows of 19 hung
Lincoln: priests buried the boy’s body in the newly constructed
Shade: the boy’s shadow in the foundation protects the new
building from ghosts & shades.