Within the Shadow of a Man
by Dennis Sampson
Within the Shadow of a Man is a work of collision--of art and sense, of morality and mortality, of logic and dream. In Within the Shadow of a Man Dennis Sampson manages, once again, to join the cosmos with the very moments of what we call our lives.
Dennis Sampson was born and raised in South Dakota. The author of five previous collections of poems, his work has been honored by the National Endowment of the Arts, the North Carolina Council on the Arts and the Alabama Arts Council. He has taught at numerous colleges and universities, including stints as poet in residence at the University of Tennessee, Wake Forest University and the University of North Carolina.
— from “On Doing Nothing”
Lethargic is the word I love,
along with lugubrious, that walk through the dark
on a day when the magenta sun is shining
while I try to remember why I called last night
that aquamarine who never loved me the way I wanted.
Being single in late middle-age is like touching down
on another planet where green aliens in leotards
ignore the glamour of your arrival
as if you had been seen too many times to count,
you throwing up your arms before the coronation in polka-dots
. . . like the mauve astronaut returned from outer space
with posterity broiling in the back of his new-fangled mind. . . .
Barnum & Bailey
The man on the trapeze had fallen and I was alone
in the hospital lobby looking around when I saw the clown.
"Where do I go?" he asked nobody,
in polka-dots and red tennis shoes outside in the hall.
Upset with the security guard for laughing,
he didn’t seem to know where he was at all.
And I don’t recall if I felt pity when he allowed himself to be drawn suddenly into the arms
of one of the other performers coming through the door.
I took the long way home
and vowed to speak for the sword swallower, those midgets joined at the hip, that clown
who wept when the doctor on call said the man on the flying trape "died"
moments ago.” Of what happens when death steps back
to study the world for us among so many others.
— from “Speaking to No One”
of a turtle appears at my feet
as if it were undertaking a journey
from here to Jerusalem,
borne forward into the evening
on pitiful feet.