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.