Thin Skin of Our Conceits


Socrates said to Glaucon,”The things we think we know are like shadows cast on the walls of a cave by a distant light of things unseen we do not know.”.

-For L. who couldn’t find the balloon she’d saved in remembrance of a cousin of her childhood

You called last night troubled.
Looking for something in particular
(a pink balloon shaped like the heart
of your long dead cousin)
you’d stumbled upon a hole in the banal:
a weakened spot in the thin skin of our conceits
stretched so taut over the otherworld
a hint of it broke through and pierced
your shell of rapt doing
and you glimpsed the truth of shades
that dance upon the walls of caves
to music most often unheard
under the rush of jets
behind the daily brushing of leaves against sky
drowned by the litanies of radios
made silent by the roar of willed tornadoes
blowing through the aisles of malls
muted by the fierce narcissism of war
the accumulation of stuff thrown up
as dikes to keep the unspeakable sea at bay
and you wondered if perhaps Socrates was right
So I recalled for you a day driving to Colrain
when a song bled from the dash
so filled with poignancy my heart broke too
and I sobbed from the steel arched bridge
where two rivers meet to the office door
remembering my mother,
my father, and Danny my autistic brother
hearing them hearing me sob
through a veil of ordinary tears and regret
saltier than the Dead Sea
This is where you and I meet, where we all meet,
on the beach of that sea, catching now and then
between surf and horizon glimpses of creatures
breaking through, breaching the membrane
between worlds unexpectedly
as we wonder how the dancing shadows
on cave walls can be true

by Jim Culleny

Plato’s allegory of the cave


My Book, Odder Still, is available at:
Amazon and Barnes and Noble,
and also at Boswell’s Books in Shelburne Falls
and Amherst Books in Amherst, Ma


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