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  • Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl (after Rembrandt), and: Still Life after Antonio de Pereda’s The Knight’s Dream, and: Still Life after Juan Sánchez Cotán’s Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber, and: Still Life after Pieter Claesz’s Vanitas with Violin and Glass Ball, and: The Last Still Life, after Peter Paul Rubens’s The Head of Medusa
  • Diane Seuss (bio)

Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl (after Rembrandt)

She comes out of the dark seeking pie, but instead finds two dead peacocks.One is strung up by its feet. The other lies on its side in a poolof its own blood. The girl is burdened with curly bangs. A too-small cap.She wanted pie, not these beautiful birds. Not a small, dusky applefrom a basket of dusky apples. Reach in. Choose a dusky apple.She sleepwalked to this window, her body led by its hunger for pie.Instead this dead beauty, gratuitous. Scalloped green feathers. Gold breast.Iridescent-eyed plumage, supine on the table. Two gaudy crowns.She rests her elbows on the stone windowsill. Why not pluck a feather?Why lean against the gold house of the rich and stare at the bird’s dead eye?The girl must pull the heavy bird into the night and run off with it.Build a fire on the riverbank. Tear away the beautiful feathers.Suck scorched tough dark meat off of hollow bones. Look at her, ready to reach.She’d hoped for pie. Meringue beaded gold. Art, useless as tits on a boar. [End Page 11]

Still Life after Antonio de Pereda’s The Knight’s Dream

You dream, like we do, of cash. Cash and clocks and beads. Like us, of masks. Skullsand masks and treasure and guns. You dream of the curved world. Of ruling it.Like us, do you wake to an unruly field? Do you stroke, from insideyour trailer, the thoraxes of June bugs pressed against the window screen?Do you do with your old sadness what the thunderhead does with its rain?Knight, there’s plenty to be sad about. What if you’re not really a knight?What if you’re only a knight in your dream? You wake to no glitteringwaistcoat and breeches, no black velvet hat, just a shirt and ill-fittingpants, tight in the crotch or loose in the crotch, from the church donation room.Nothing to defend but a couple of acres of blighted field corn.No one feels sorry for you. Too much like feeling sorry for ourselves.Not even that angel you dreamed up, a long-haired boy with barn-owlwings whose missive is, he hallucinated you. You are his feverdream. The clock’s dream, coin’s dream. The skull gnaws on the bad idea of you. [End Page 12]

Still Life after Juan Sánchez Cotán’s Quince, Cabbage, Melon and Cucumber

Anything can be a marionette. A quince, a cabbage, a melon, a cucumber,suspended against a black background, illumined by a curiouswhite light. In this little show, the quince plays a full gold moon. The cabbageis the antagonist, curled outer leaves fingering the charcoal void.Cucumber’s the peasant, nubby belly to the ground like a frog.That leaves melon, center stage, rough wedge hacked out of her buttery side.Each object holds its space, drawing the eye from quince to cabbage, melonto cucumber, in a left-to-right downward-sloping curve. Four bodieshang in the box of darkness like planets, each in its private orbit.It’s a quiet drama about nothing at all. No touch, no brushingup against each other, no oxygen, no rot, so that each shape, eachcharacter, is pure, clean in its loyalty to its own fierce standard.Even the wounded melon exudes serenity. Somewhere, juice runsdown a hairy chin, but that is well beyond the border of the box. [End Page 13]

Still Life after Pieter Claesz’s Vanitas with Violin and Glass Ball

Vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas.

Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8

We’re cleaning out the houses of the dead...


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pp. 9-15
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