We begin with a white canvas. First, there’s a spray of dark red–a simple line forming a curved diagonal along the canvas. Then another, this time nearly horizontal as our wrist flicks left to right. And another. And another. Slowly, like a Jackson Pollock, the canvas begins to fill with beautiful interwoven and some dripping lines, the earliest of which begin now to dry into an autumn brown. Another ors d’ouvre that we now spread out to admire. The canvas shimmers softly in the gold light that drips in through the pulled curtains. We open the locked closet and add the canvas to our collection of nineteen others, upon each an equally beautiful spread of brown lines, kept dry and away from the flies that so love to chew on the crusts of blood clinging to cotton thread.

Now the clean-up. It is not as enjoyable as the process of creation, but it is as important. A clear workspace is the haven of a clear mind, or so our father used to say, usually before painting our back red with a flick of his wrist and a fling of his belt.

We take the mop to the floor and whistle while we moisten and then swoosh up the film of thickening crimson from the floor. The mop reddens as well, and we plunge it into the bucket of water, watching the blood turn the water into a colorful mixture of brick-colored hues. Then we repeat, and we rinse, until the floor shines once more. Under black light, we enjoy the glow of the floor–the beautiful white and purple bubbles and lines, like bruises drawn in negative space.

Then there is the source of all our paint, the once-lively body of an exotic dancer, now empty of life and beauty. The shell is by no means ugly, but it will dry and smell, and this is a clean space for a clean, creative mind. We will discard this shell, and we will celebrate this, my twentieth piece.

And then we will begin anew.