Still Life

by Marianne Peel

For I have known them all already, known them all:
            Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoon
            I have measured out my life with coffee spoons

                           -from “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot

My beloved has mastered the artistry
of corralling his hair into a ponytail.
Blindfolded hairdresser, he crosses fingers
over and under, manipulating the elastic tie,
unable to view the proceedings
as he exposes his neck.

Tonight he reads Yeats out loud to me.
Cursed Adam knows this verse cultivating
is yeoman’s work:
     Better go down upon your marrow-bones   
     And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones   
     Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;   
     For to articulate sweet sounds together
     Is to work harder than all these.
Dirt gathers underneath my fingernails
as I dig in the muck of memory.  My beloved offers
shovels and trowels, tools to assist this unearthing of soil,
this aerating of clods of clay. I plant splintered popsicle sticks
in the dirt, hard scrapple words scribbled on them,
fodder for days that are just fog upon fog.

Tonight I read Pablo Neruda to my lover.
Let’s not speak in any language
let’s stop for a second
and not move our arms so much.
He tells me , “Quiet is a good place to be.”

His reading glasses came apart in his hands,
earpiece detaching.  Tonight
he wears my readers, purple frames
balanced on the edge of his nose. 

I offer him brie and fig jam.
Sugared pecans. 
There will be slices of nectarines,
crackers composed of cauliflower and chia seeds.
There was a time we read poems to each other every night.
He- enamored with sound and sense,
the smooth collusion of vowels paired with meaning,
of consonants blended with the severity of sound.
I- enchanted with sensory images,
the collision of sensuality and seduction,
of the tactile and the olfactory fusing at the base of the spine.

I have dressed all in white,
baked a bushel barrel of black cake,
slipped beneath Emily Dickinson’s skin.
I am his sullied bride, molasses stains on my apron,
flour on the tips of my wide heeled, sensible shoes.
He steams open my Letter to the World.
I want him to withhold judgement,
to open me with majestic tenderness.
I wait for a reply.  The post is fickle these days.
A letter could linger in a pile for days on days.

My hair is as long as it has ever been.
He smooths out the snarls with his fingers,
pulling at the roots.

I miss the splash of the pelican’s deep dive,
the blue heron still life on the edge of the dock.
I miss the wine and the whisky
while we predicted the colors of the sunset.
I miss keeping watch for Portuguese man o war,
our feet naked and vulnerable. 

Tonight, I will fall asleep on his chest.
I rehearse surreal stories as I doze off.
A cloud passes over the moon, cuts the moon in two.
A razor blade passes over an eyeball, cuts the eyeball in two.
I never knew the moon could bleed.
I never knew an eyeball could disintegrate.

My beloved tastes of fig jam and cracker crumbs.
Salty decadence,
I devour him all night long.

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