The National Poetry Review

Steven Winn

STILL LIFE
          – Pieter Claesz, 1638

In Gallery 17 a boy, about seven,
holds his mother’s hand. Still Life,
she tells him, and the artist’s name and
how long ago. About the prosperous
Dutch and “their far-reaching trade network”
and “the mastery of perspective,” she reads
only to herself, fixing the thing, making
it solid. Which means she doesn’t see
what he does – the spiraled lemon skin
curling off like a monkey’s tail to grab on
something out of sight and bring that silver
tray the lemon sits on crashing down,
while out there on the table corner
three pebbled raspberries have fled their bowl
and jumped a knife to make their escape.
He holds his mother’s hand and waits.
Waits for that fancy cup pitched over
on its side that’s really a rocket ship
to blast off for the back wall. Waits
for that sliver of window light caught
on the wine glass rim to open up
and fill this scene and Gallery 17
and all the ones before and those to come
with wind and sun and flocks and flocks
of ink-black birds slamming through
the silence on thunderous, red-tipped wings.


STEVEN WINN’s poems have appeared in The Able Muse, Antioch Review, Cimarron Review, Nimrod, Poetry Daily, Prairie Schooner, Southern Poetry Review, 32 Poems and Verse Daily. He is a San Francisco arts critic and former Wallace Stegner Fellow.

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