Lotte Reiniger’s Magic Shadows*

You couldn’t call them scissors in her hands   if the clashed

swords of scissors slash and shear   her blades whispered through a void

of thick black paper   their strokings calling up paddlers


and plodders   gallopers and swoopers   spelling lions

from mane-shaped cursive sweeps   Baghdad minarets from strips

of lacy trim   and Cinderella’s poverty from


a ragged hem   her art not merely deft fingerwork

but transmigration of souls   her own into stone rounds

of tracery or the muscular vertical of


an eagle taking wing   and the beholder’s into

a genesis that turned tapered shadows to rosy

flesh of thigh and flank   grey stripes to sunlight   and the gap


between pose and pose to limbs in action   while she fled

the Nazis’ impenetrable shade   the stick-figures

pushed into ovens   the metal silhouettes of tanks


treading Aladdin’s sands   her most moving creations

weightless not with absence but with the magical flights

of bodies wholly grounded in the passage of light.



*Lotte Reiniger (1899-1981) invented silhouette animation, cutting out shadow figures and sets for silent films

(The Adventures of Prince Achmed, The Magic Flute) and for her many short features based on Grimms’ fairy tales.

This poem “Lotte Reiniger’s Magic Shadows*” originally appeared in Asian Canadian Critique Beyond the Nation. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 227 (Winter 2015): 113.

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