Michael Dobberstein: "Chiaroscuro"




          Every visible body is surrounded by light and shade. 

                              —Leonardo DaVinci


In this painting shadows create the snow.

The moon hangs in utter darkness, a smoky black.

Light falls through the scene, disappears almost,


And the painting is a window, the world paused outside.

Shadows of trees are long fingers in the snow,

The trees themselves darker streaks on the dark sky


Which is no sky, only blackness, a place to hang

A moon, which creates the sky, whose dark stripes

Must be trees because something has to cast the shadows


In the snow that glistens, perhaps, in moonlight.

The shadows fall across the snow in parallel lines,

Exactly as black as the faint imposition of trees


On the sky, those darker forms which only suggest

That trees may exist, taking their shapes from shadows

Whose presence is an absence, a lack of light.


Shadows are stronger than light, cast the shapes of bodies.

The world emerges only in shadow, shade, a wintry

Moon, shades of black. Unearthly, and exactly, the earth.



Michael Dobberstein teaches literature, publications design and writing courses at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, IN.