This happened many years ago but sometimes all it takes is one small thing to bring back a misplaced memory from the past. In this case, it was the shadow of rain drops clinging to a screen, backlit by a street light because the moon was elsewhere. The pattern fell across a wicker chair, elongating dots and dashes on the wooden banister, like wordless Morse code or Braille.
This Braille shadow reminded me of when I did workshops in several primary schools. It wasn't called creative writing in those days and I didn't call it poetry because I didn't want the children to feel the need to rhyme. I can't remember where I got the idea but in my own writing there were countless shadows, so I called it Lies About My Shadow.
Starting out, it was half charade and half theatre on my part. I would ask the teacher to turn off the lights and pull down the window shades, then I'd get the kids to notice existing shadows. Small hands raised right away created blurry trees on the wall. The very sweet teacher moving in front of the chalkboard to her desk became an ominous dragon trailing clouds, shedding skin, perhaps smoke.
I would read two or three short vignettes about crazy adventures my shadow had while I slept. The children of course loved this game of pretend and they eagerly wrote for a short period of time, maybe 20 minutes. Then each child read what they had written aloud. If they were too shy I said my shadow would read theirs for them. They were second graders, so this worked, and my shadow didn't need to read for them. The only rules were to listen and clap after each reader.
Of the 24 children, I remember two in such detail. The first was a nervous, unkempt girl who wrote about how small her shadow was because it was frightened by loud noises, the loud noises being the fights at night her parents had when they thought she was sleeping. She wrote that her shadow had become blue, deaf and frozen, never had enough blankets and never felt safe anywhere, ending with the hope of orange juice in the morning.
The second one was a boy who sat at the back of the class and I was not told he was blind. (I had noticed bright yellow tape and yellow paint at the edges of steps, on the floors, along railings, but assumed it was some new safety compliance, having to do with fire drills or something.) He wrote using a cylindrical device with a crank and slips of thicker paper; an aide would transcribe his words below each line in precise handwriting. (Looking for something else, I found the original as well as part of the collection which I typed and had bound.)
I have more than one shadow.
I think everybody does,
because that is what I see
When I sleep my shadow has dreams
of faces and places his shadow fingertips
only know by touch. He is happy at night
because then he's not different.
He wants to write better.
Brian R. age 8