The next poem does come out of art, in a way; it came from the introduction by Richard Gombrich to a book about the history of shadows, of cast shadows, in painting. But I was interested in the idea of shadow as a guide to you when you don't know what is happening to yourself.

Indian Princess Picks Lover out from Gods

Indian Princess Picks Lover out from Gods

Thank God we cast
A spot of shadow in our lives,
Said the Mahabharata bride,
Facing five versions of her groom –

Your man himself plus four male gods,
Four dead-spit images, self-xeroxed in his shape –
Who recognised that heartbeat,
The man she’d have to part with

By the shadow at his heel. Gods don’t go round
Casting shadow. Things we do and feel
(As a leader in The Independent
Put it afterwards) are incomplete,
Imperfect, therefore real.

from Rembrandt Would Have Loved You (Chatto & Windus, 1998), copyright © Ruth Padel 1998, used by permission of the author and The Random House Group Ltd.

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