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  • The tragic undertones that mar our best achievements, and: When you think of the past, what comes to mind is the dead, and: It has been observed before, of course, how oppressive, and: How instructive, the skull placed among the bric-a-brac, and: Or take, for instance, this still life from a Pompeii wall, and: For weeks now I have been meditating on still lifes, and: The apples in the basket, the apples of the mind
  • Morri Creech (bio)

The tragic undertones that mar our best achievements

The tragic undertones that mar our best achievements,The sense, beneath the languor of afternoon, that thingsCome to an end, that one moment falls into the nextAnd the footsteps of the past fade down the long hallway,Have nothing to do with the pears at rest in their dish.How still they are by the sugar bowl and tablecloth,How poised for a conclusion that never comes, cantedToward the foreground as if they could spill to the floor,Though they never do. They are a trick of perception,Of course, all curve and color, not the solid objectsThat we take them to be. Time, in passing, has givenThem a sense of timelessness. They are lit from within.They appear as pears, these shapes, pears of pure idea. [End Page 107]

When you think of the past, what comes to mind is the dead

When you think of the past, what comes to mind is the deadPeacock you once saw hanging from the wall in winter,The blood and claws and stiff wings and the dazzling plumage,And later on how your father plucked and gutted it,Rinsed the tender meat, then quartered it in the kitchen.You were the girl in the light of the window who staredAnd thought to herself: nothing has ever looked so still.You were maybe nine or ten. But what you think of now,More than the smells of the kitchen or the blood dryingOn the stones, more than the way your father held the knifeAbove the cutting board, whistling while the tendons snapped,Is how you knew then that you would keep this memoryAs you glimpsed yourself in the gleam of the peacock’s eye. [End Page 108]

It has been observed before, of course, how oppressive

It has been observed before, of course, how oppressiveIs the stillness of painted plums and jugs and silverTureens to those who are caught in the flux of motion,The failing of flesh into time. About the stasisAnd Keatsian calm one finds in art—the idlenessOf the cat crouched next to the pheasant it cannot reach,The noon sunlight flooding the kitchen window withoutDiminishment—about that semblance of foreverI have nothing to add, standing behind the plush ropesThat keep me on this side of timelessness, the minutesBearing me slowly into a future where jugs breakAnd silver tarnishes, where plums molder in their dish,Where the cat, pheasant caught in its mouth, leaps and is gone. [End Page 109]

How instructive, the skull placed among the bric-a-brac

How instructive, the skull placed among the bric-a-brac,Among all these objects arranged like a jumble sale:The necklace tossed as an afterthought on the tableWhere the book lies open to a page we cannot seeAnd the fluted glass, the loose change, and the pocket watchGleam in what spare light the painter has afforded us,Saying, how fleeting is time, how futile is desire.Here are plums and quinces, an apple halved on a plate,Caught in their sumptuous tumble to oblivion,And the violin waiting there, lovely but untouched,Since no one comes to this seventeenth-century roomRendered in paint except to examine the riches,While the skull looks back with its air of cool appraisal. [End Page 110]

Or take, for instance, this still life from a Pompeii wall

Or take, for instance, this still life from a Pompeii wallOf fruits and vases, grapes and cherries and apples heapedHigh in a bowl so clear we can see to the bottom—What astonishes me...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 107-113
Launched on MUSE
2016-10-02
Open Access
No
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