Black Shadow Man & Taste

(Two Poems)

Sihle Ntuli

Black Shadow Man

A silk thread of silhouette trailing. Resembling the Rorschach that psychologists feed my eyes. I did not feel it permeating through pores of my skin. Nor did I feel it resting on nerve endings. I did not feel the presence of the unsettling settling in. Bone marrow, brittle tissue, no loss of reflex. There was a mild tension of the solar plexus, but I shrugged it off as something that will pass. The ripple of the face, stillness, flow of blood stream. And on that first night when I noticed, I found my eyes submerged in what I could only describe as black water. My floating eyeballs, rolled behind closed walls. My sight locked on a familiar black shadow. The mind’s fingers scraped my scab of healing. Feint fingers twitched, twiddled, and sunk towards the bone, wondering what had burrowed inside. The legs ran towards the mirror to feed the need to know. Eyes swallowing the reflexive portion of glass. The heavy head laying down to sleep. Syncing with the mind, the eyes closing to re-live, peripheral hauntings of my winters. I could only dream of still water here. I only found running black river catching me here. I would always enter sleep by drowning. First the toes, then upwards to my head; all wet, all black. On the will to live, on the arms, on hands with the will to save the self. The self, felt heavy under the river current. The hands wanted to save the arms and their loss of power. The arms losing a race against running legs of the river. As fingertips lose grip on dear life. I latch onto learnt reflex, a sense of conditioning and only then there is floating. Black water now with the semblance of running blood. And then it came, that one cold night. That frozen black river night, night of the fatally sharp crystal black ice. It began when I found the all-too-familiar thread of black silhouette. Held captive under my cold, my winter, the floating shadow was unable to move. My hands held out to touch, to feel the crystal of black ice. I had finally found his face, the black shadow man. And when I looked him dead in the eyes, I only found my own eyes and then a feeling of dying. Black glass of ice piercing clean through the hand, down to my bone. And on the morning of my death, it was this same hand shielding my face, from the piercing sunrise that woke me.


I leave the tap open,

hold out both hands, 
let water dance inside my palms, 

slicing, dicing    the fingers inched ever closer  
to cold sharp stainless silver,

glands, lachrymose
the eyes were left squinting,

ripe fruit, the seed
gentle trickle of red juice,    

ginger and the cloves 
crushed under   the pestle on its way down, 

there was
this same kind of pressure   on my soul

the lament,
lined scars I left   on the wooden board 

and now   with this ceramic plate 
I hold    the shape of my own    peculiar   uncertainty,

all for a single moment,
just to hear you say,

that you 
can taste,


Sihle Ntuli is based in Durban, South Africa. He is an MA graduate from Rhodes University, Makhanda. His chapbook ‘Rumblin’ is forthcoming from South African publisher Uhlanga.


*Illustration: ‘The Black Shadow Man’ by Sef Adeola.

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