to and fro in shadow from inner to outer shadow

An interesting piece from Samuel Beckett, which I include here, even though it seems that Beckett considered it to be a short story, not a poem. However, to me it reads like a poem, having many poetic qualities of allusiveness, rhythm, linguistic economy, and a presentation on the page like verse. The piece was also used as a libretto for an opera by one Morton Feldman, so this is truly a genre-crossing piece.




to and fro in shadow from inner to outer shadow

from impenetrable self to impenetrable unself

by way of neither

as between two lit refuges whose doors once

neared gently close, once away turned from

gently part again

beckoned back and forth and turned away

heedless of the way, intent on the one gleam

or the other

unheard footfalls only sound

till at last halt for good, absent for good

from self and other

then no sound

then gently light unfading on that unheeded


unspeakable home


Samuel Beckett


From <>


The poem/story  seems to describe movement, without a source or beginning and without an object or outcome. Neither one thing nor another in fact, but that doesn’t matter, the movement is enough to deliver its own justification.


I think readers will grapple with this and come up  with their own meaning or interpretation, or not as the case may be. Or just enjoy the juxtaposition of words and sounds on their own merit.


As a bonus I offer up one of my favourite Beckett quotes: “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”


The Poetry Dude


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