To sketch or paint
a proper egg
darken the middle

Painters call this core shadow
where light ends & shadow begins

                                     I was 21 & he came from behind
                                     sweat-soaked shirt tied over my face
                                     made dusk even darker

Mona Lisa’s face & décolletage
would not appear lustrous or pearly
if not for the sludge-hued
shading just under her sharp jaw

          He beat me with the sharp
          heel of his work shoe
          a new tincture of dark                                                                                   

          Night of near-death
          scabs & crusted blood                                       
          police reports & mugshots

                    I burned my clothes

                    Saved three clods of mud                                           
                    that were stuck to my jeans
                    in a gold lacquer box

     For 25 years I left
     the lights on at night
     & still there’s quicksand
     in my body’s memory

    Sometimes I can’t move
    I forget to breathe

          the undertow overwhelming                                   
          it pulls me into the black center
          like wet cement

An artist knows it takes time to learn
what greatly illuminates
It is critical to include the blackest
part of the shadow

         I tell myself it’s only a whirlpool dream
         & wake up before the concrete thickens

                     My muscles remember
                     there are good reasons to move

Move for the sweet smell of gumbo
simmering on low
for the dark garden dirt
for the shadow that ignites
& reveals light