Shadow Art

Long before dawn the artists ascend
their starlit ladders, lilting rung by rung
from slumber to penumbra,
paint pots tilting precariously
over the edge of the world,
which sleeps. Our dreams lift to keep company
with the charcoal outlines of tomorrow’s hills,
which the night artists paint for our security
before littering dark roadways
with the abstract art of almost morning.

We are the ones who will wake to their work,
to the world made palatable and paraded
through their dark blinking eyes
their unhurried pencils ―
the delineation of white lace rain, newly-sewn
into a watercolor disenchantment ―
over our recyclable coffee cups,
the planet they have painted
becoming the pieces of our waking lives,
the marionette strings beginning to hum
in the daylight

while the artists, gone back to ground,
rinse each brush tenderly
and line paints row on long, long row
before they sleep,
leaving us to our own devices,
to make what we will of all they have created
and to give it meaning, to use it up
on our own behalf and perhaps
keep some tiny piece of it in our lungs,
because tomorrow they will have hung
a new piece, an altarpiece, a shining tribute
to our eyes, to the art of sleeping
and of shadow.