My Shadow Sleeps Forever

Fur remains to mark
the common, cozy places of his rest.
Nuzzling, my constant companion of over
16 years seeks solace in my touch.
His nose nudges my hands as though
propelled by the vibration of his purring.
Matted, greasy fur from a lack of
self care covers him. He headbutts me in earnest,
as aggressive for affection as ever.

I have known him through all his years,
though 10 passed me by the time he arrived.
Precocious, inquisitive, and all the other
adjectives we bestow upon the young.
Following my footsteps, his padding paws
were ever-present.
He was vocal from the beginning:
baby “mews” that squeaked from little lungs;
hearty “arrs” and “ows” in adulthood;
and final, ornery, pitiful yowls for release.

Arthritis arrested his joints;
he wasted away as his appetite
disappeared and we discovered
bony hips once covered by powerful haunches.
His claws no longer retracted,
now creating a “ticktickticktick” when he prowled the
hardwood of our first floor.
Houses with too many stairs became his enemy;
he trudged from food to litter box until
he could no longer make the trip in time.

Some days sleep was his only escape,
though if he woke and saw my face,
purrs soon permeated the air. I could never be sure
whether his whiskers and twitching paws,
unsettled by snores,
signified dreams or nightmares.

But my shadow sleeps
forever; gone
from the pain of this world.
He leaves behind comforting memories;
an example of unconditional love and affection.
He lives on in dreams; warming himself in the sun,
surrounded by the smell of fresh-sliced ham,
cold water dripping from his whiskers, and
the chirping of birds to be
stalked in the tall grass.

by Erik Shinker

Little One

(For my nephew)

Your entrance was preceded by
your mother’s cry of pain
and followed by your own
announcement.
“I am here,”
you proclaimed, though
the words haven’t been given to you yet.
Your mother’s struggle supplanted by
the love felt for you as you were
lifted, a gift, into
maternal embrace.

I hope you have your father’s sense of humor;
his ability to express the
boundless love he feels
for those he cares about.
His frugality, integrity, and
honesty.

I wish for you
your mother’s laugh, her
fierce spirit and
intense loyalty.
I hope you have her stubbornness, and
her refusal to back down
when facing the seemingly insurmountable.

But these are just parts of your possibility;
the truth will be so much more.
You are a combination:
both the before and
something new.

We’ve been waiting here for you;
we’re happy that you’ve come along.
A family, made a little bigger,
a little brighter, and elevated as your
giggles signal the
hope of another generation.

You will do things we can only guess at;
songs will touch your spirit,
stories will guide you,
and you will learn
as you take your first steps.
We will pour ourselves into you; and though
your family may, at times,
struggle to understand you,
(and you them)
know that you are our kin.

And that means something.

There is so much love for you that you
will one day understand;
I am overcome with the splendor of you,
and you have only just arrived.

I won’t hope that you don’t make mistakes;
we all have, and you surely will.
But, I wish for you to learn from them;
take your parent’s advice and heed them.

I wish I could spare you from
the pain of the world,
but that would only serve to
keep you from sharing
all you have to give to it;
and you have so much to share,
little one,
so much.

by Erik Shinker

Options of Escape

It was always an option;
the chance of escape from the everyday,
the routine, the mundane.
An epiphany of wanderlust and
the ideals of those post-grad, 20-somethings
still clinging to their
divinely endowed potential.

The lie of being content now revealed;
that surrogate stories were all the travel necessary
was a fool’s fantasy;
that imagination and
the ability to translate the stories of others,
manifest their magnificence,
were enough.

Things lost that were never owned,
ideals implanted from media and music.
The cowl of adulthood lies heavy with
the knowledge that the
past has passed and
there is no going back.

We fall, warriors cut apart by
time’s rusty blade, learning nothing;
faux-philosophers who cling to clichés and
parrot the same concerns that add
not wisdom, but
exhaustion.

by Erik Shinker

Echoes

The accordion ebb and flow of
infatuation. Waltzing, Parisian
lovers entwined. They once stood
silhouetted in the hazy ember of
Sunday twilight.
Separated by a plague, their world
halted on its axis and spun the opposite.
They shout toward one another as a
fissure flexes and casts them away from each other.
Their ears cupped to hear as their cries fade and
echo; eventually lost to any reverberation.

by Erik Shinker