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.