1. Degas draws a diagonal line down his blackboard.

Someone suggests he has separated the dark from the dark.

Perhaps it is the best that we can ever hope to do.

We draw our lines, trying to shed some light into the dark

but only succeed in rippling the surface of unknowability –

drawing a knife through molasses, throwing a stone into tar.

Light is hard to maintain. It requires constant energy.

Dark requires no such effort. It only has to absorb.

Light is a crusade, and lifts wherever it settles,

plays tricks, brings colour and joy.

In the darkest sky the Moon and Venus burn through the blackout,

drawing a diagonal line.


Charlie Bell’s poem is in response to several works in the A Certain Kind of Light exhibition, including Rachel Whitread’s untitled piece involving six spaces, and Elizabeth Magill’s ‘Without’. The catalyst for the poem came later when he came across an article about Degas teaching ninth grade in ‘M. Degas teaches Art and Science at Durfee Intermediate School’ by Knopf in 1991.


Charlie Bell is a freelance writing tutor and poet living and working around Tunbridge Wells. As well as teaching for Adult Education and the University of Kent, he works in community settings with disadvantaged groups. He is currently collecting together several pamphlets of poetry. He can be found at www.writing-hut.com.

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