Talking to Shadows


In stock

poems by

Shawn Pavey

Poetry book, 64 pages, cover price $14

($9 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-116-6

Release date: 1998

Talking to Shadows is a re-release of one of the first chapbooks published by Main Street Rag back in 1997. The poems have been reworked and updated and additional poems have been added so that this is now a full length collection with a new ISBN.

Shawn Pavey was born in Maryland and has lived in Kentucky, Colorado, North Carolina, Missouri, and Kansas. He earned a B.A. in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and graduated from the prestigious and competitive Honors Poetry Writing Program. His poems appeared in Alle Arte, Lost Dog, True Believer, The Charlotte Poetry Review, Independence Boulevard, and The Blotter. He co-founded The Main Street Rag and served as an Associate Editor from 1996 to 1999. He lives in the Kansas City area where he serves on the Board of Directors for The Writers’ Place, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the literary arts throughout the Midwest. At The Writers’ Place, he hosts the monthly Main Street Rag Poetry Series.

Shawn Pavey’s poems shatter lamps, shiver the glow, and make whole the world with broken light.

—Chuck Sullivan


Shawn Pavey’s poetry slices an anxious path through restless shadows. His images are haunting and familiar, sharp and fresh.

—M. Scott Douglass

Reclaiming the Light

Can’t stop what’s coming
can’t stop what is on its way

—Tori Amos


The sun will come up,
come what may,
as you sit out there on the back porch
at 3 a.m. listening to the late summer crickets
and the monotonic groan of
a second-hand window-unit air conditioner,
looking out through black shadows of leaves
over tops of low-rent houses
past skyscrapers
past the horizon and straight
into the center of what you cannot name,
a steaming, pumping mass
red and alive with the voice that haunts you,
a throatless voice ringing in your skull
raising you from your bed to sit out there alone in your darkness,
in mid-September, long past midnight,
your heart pounding fast in the center of your chest
so you breathe & breathe & breathe
cool damp air
trying to clean the damage away,
trying to scour your blood, your heart, your head
of the voice which is your voice,
stronger when you are tired of fighting and smiling
through the darkness that greets you every day

so you light a match,
let your eyes adjust, and touch that flame to the end of a cigarette
and inhale

ah yes,
distraction, light,
a mantra in the dark of light & ember & smoke

say it to yourself over & over & over
the sun will come up,
come what may,

again & again & again.



His vampires are back again
rising up from hallucinatory mists
of madness gleaming at the edge
of group home rooms.

Nosferatu roommates,
demonic staff,
and steak knives from the dishwasher
become weapons slicing through monsters
on the way out the door.

Imagined blood is real enough

and state hospital beds possess thick leather straps
that bind bodies in place.
Screams never travel far past padded walls
where thorazine is not holy water,
wooden stake,
or crucifix,

where shadows creep in through his eyes,
and nightmares linger when he wakes.


Catch and Release

Casting in rhythmic, smooth-measured motions,
he waits for a perfect moment to release
clear three-pound test, florescent yellow leader,
and a wet fly tied to the end of his line.

He pulls enough slack from his reel to make distance
and casts once more before he lets fly
an arcing line through clear mountain air
from the tip of his hand-made bamboo fly rod.
The stone fly nymph he tied splashes down
slightly upstream of the pool by the boulder
on the other side of the river by the bank,
where he just knows deep in his angler’s heart
a fire-bellied trout swims cool and patient
waiting for morsels to float by overhead.

His deception, skillful and knotted, hooks it
and pulls the rainbow into crisp morning light.
He feels it twist and pull and fight,
bamboo stresses and bends in hand,
his left deftly pulls line through the guides.
It splashes once more out of the water,
its tail flapping wildly to swim in the sky
as sunlight flashes on its slick, color dappled side
and sinks again into the churning stream
where my father’s net waits to scoop it out.
Trying to breath the air that will kill it,
the rainbow thrashes in the net
as my father takes it in his hands,
puts his thumb in the fish’s mouth,
and gently pulls the barb from its lip.

He places it back in the cold river water,
holds it, lets it readjust, makes sure it is strong,
and watches it swim slowly free.

He turned to me, water rippling in his wake,
and whispered a soft hook that caught me
even though I couldn’t hear,
bubbling over the sounds of flowing water,
the words his lips mouthed like prayers.

I smiled at his smile, turned away,
and with smooth-measured motions learned from his hands,
I cast my own line.

SKU: 978-1-59948-116-6 Category: Tag:


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