Old Dogs

UMBRA


I went walking
along the river
late this afternoon
for the first time
in many a month

strolling the path
on the shortest day
of this waning year
quite a different feeling
from all those summer treks
through a verdant landscape
the trees
all bare now
and much of the color
has long since faded
from the flora
on the ground

in the weak
winter sunlight
the scene took on
a stark black and white
quality of desolation
that seemed to
recognize me

as I reached
the southernmost
extent of my wanderings
I headed eastward
across
the narrow pedestrian bridge
enjoying the windless serenity
of the smooth flowing water
and the bright reflections
off the river
like photographs
in a shimmering
aquatic album

on the
east bank
I turned
to the north
hoping to reach home
before the sun
fell below
the hills
on the
horizon

as I hoofed
between water
and Riverside Drive
I caught sight
of my loping shadow
an elongated darkness
that stood out sharply
on the bright roadway

there
was something
in the shaded area
that disturbed me
causing me to stop
and gaze
into the black outline
in an attempt
to discern
the unknown source
of my puzzled
fixation

then
I recognized
the contrasting figure
stretched upon
the pavement

it was the shape
of the man
I had always
hoped to become
a tall angular being
with a wild head of hair
clothes hanging loosely
in anonymous folds
and sturdy legs
with purposeful strides
carrying the body
forward
toward more
enlightened
climes

as the light
dimmed
and the phantom
disappeared
I turned
and continued
my brief journey
to the north

back
in the apartment
I looked
in the mirror
and was not pleased
with what I saw

it was only
a twisted vision
of my outer inadequacies
but somehow it seemed
much more damning

an image
laughing
at my futile hope
for a more
meaningful
existence

I closed
my watering eyes
and tried to recall
the haunting darkness
that I had seen
on the street
hoping that the shadow
was a more accurate
reflection of the soul
that the caricature
in glass
before me