woman's shadow on ground
[ This image is in the public domain. ]

This morning, sun high at my back, my shadow
confronted me, sharp and elongated, her shoulders
sloped like jaunty half-moons, framed by
the negative space below her bobbed hair,
pant-legs flared and arms
downright muscular, like Rosie the
Riveter. She moved gracefully,
all of a piece, and nothing
got in her way
except me.

The last time my shadow struck
me so intensely was years ago
at a Valentine’s party, as my partner
filmed her projected on the wall, dancing.

It was our first party
together, two weeks after
his closest friend’s death.

Our relationship walked the tightrope of grief
that tore established couples apart, and I
wandered to the living room alone, where disco music
pumped through paperboard walls and lamps
outlined my glitzy doppelgänger in seamless motion.

I yearned for a different timeline, the friend
alive, my partner and I still in the honeyed
glow of our new relationship, which had become
woody and brittle as a mature grapevine.

I watched her, my shadow
self, lifted my arms and curved them
around my body, this figure copying my motions
confidently, unweighted by sharing in
another’s grief, just movement and
shape, without a care
in her two-dimensional head.

I turned and saw a phone camera held
like a shield, my partner capturing my
movements silently from the corner.

I expected
an interrogation, for him to question
how I could dance so soon
after a tragedy, for him to be
angry or misunderstand
my whimsy for mockery, but instead,

his features softened, his mouth opened,
and he called my name.