Still Life, with Children
In the middle of a lacquered pine table
sits an oak bowl,
one black knot carved into its side.
The tips of four bananas
protrude above the rim,
curl around six faded red apples
and five tiny oranges,
a gap in the center of the bowl
while fruit almost balances
around the rim.
Beside the bowl,
powdery orange fingersmears
and dusty shards of Doritos
stretch toward the edge,
a curved river of artificial colors
that slides between
leaning, three-quarters finished
and yesterday’s mail pile.
One orange sits on the edge,
hovers ready to demolish the ship
or settle gently among the bananas.
This is an ekphrastic poem, responding to Salvador Dali's Living Still Life with my own take. The painting essentially deconstructs the concept of a still life painting by showing dishes and utensils in the air, in motion, leaning, and basically anything but still. As a parent of two elementary-aged boys, this represents my reality, as even when things look still, activity lingers either at the surface or just beneath.
I think of a still life in words as noun-focused, and I ended most of the lines with nouns for that reason. The tension lies in between, in the lines that do end differently and in the verbs in the middle of the lines, representing an attempt within the poem to reflect the activity underlying everything there.
In this case, the table is one just left, signs of life and movement evident everywhere. Objects lean and dangle, and even the non-moving river of Doritos aftermath shows the mess actively left behind. I end with the orange, hovering on the edge between destruction and peaceful settling, the perpetual state of things where children are involved.