Still Life in Number Seven


  Bryan Maxwell

 

 

A prelude of iodine, a quickening,

a slipping away of friction,

then a slice that seemed to precede

its own motion of graceful opening

 

into a smoke jellied scene

of avocado and pomegranate.

This was how an abdomen,

quartered off with baby blue sheets,

 

unfolded beneath an unassuming

blade in my father's double-gloved hands

to reveal, for the first time,

the dirtied secrets of inner slick and color,

 

a crudeness I knew I could not

ask anyone to explain, a sight I felt sure

belonged back in its drawer. But

perhaps that is why our breathing,

 

even when it slides along without the help

of the gentle marking hand of a machine,

is so measured. So patiently insistent.

To give us time to sort through

 

the shifting nervousness

of organs packed neatly away.

To let us see the most ordinary and sterling

face of things: pigment, texture,

 

light. A table forever set

for two. A wine bottle forlorn

and cold. A bowl of pears

that no one will ever eat.