Still-Life, with Bruise
This fruit, of course, was rotting
while the painter painted. Do not mistake me;
these were not the strawberries daubed
with fantastic mold in the glass museum,
not even the rind, with its coat of wax
and fruitflies, of the cantaloupe I failed to eat
all week because my lover had not come.
He had those perfect curving brows
of the Caravaggio boys, the thick pink
lips, the heavy cream skin. Young and broke,
he occasionally sucked sweet-vinegar
juice from an overripe matron in exchange
for rent that winter in the warehouse
of the local art league. It was cold. The windows
cracked like loose bits of lace, and every day
the same knife sank into the same fat slab
of plastic-wrapped cheese. Then you would
have done it, too, lubed your asshole, rammed it
with the blunt point of the difficult sculpture
no one ever came to see—a pure aesthetic
response to that something cold in art
that does not care for us, as after our supper
of milk and peaches, he stood behind me
at the mirror, laced our fingers, traced the line
running down to the mons veneris, stopped.
Why put yourself at risk by becoming beautiful?
The Arab in the overcoat was not an angel;
when they found me naked in the field,
that much became clear. Picture it
and try not to think of a Renaissance still-life:
blue bruise on the bare plucked thigh.
A teenage girl is just another sort of game bird.
And as for this terrible gorgeous fruit,
the resin-hued grapes and pomegranate, sour-apples,
plums and peaches and pears, the blood-red gape
of the fig-throat, the melon quartered, splayed
open with rot—it is only the most expensive
form of riot the painters knew, the one the body
always already is yielding to. And the scent
in his studio was the same rich perfume
of decay that hung thick and sweet
in his lungs, in his heart, in his humid blood.
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