Chardin’s Pitcher, Two Eggs, a Casserole, Three Herrings, a Copper Pot, a Slice of Fish, and a Jug, by Shelley Benaroya
Chardin’s Pitcher, Two Eggs, a Casserole, Three
Herrings, a Copper Pot, a Slice of Fish, and a Jug
This is the poem Marie Howe warned you to walk away from.
The one about staring into the kitchen gloom at a dead fish on the table.
A lot of dead fish.
Never mind that others more gifted than you
wade against the undertow of sleep
to their own dark corners of the house each day
and re-emerge later waving won lotteries:
poems about blue spiked veronica,
watching the unsubmissive sleep,
furbelows of Venetian lace,
and how wonderful it is after all
to be you, just you.
Never mind how glorious its conception:
when strung along a museum wall
its quiescence lures you with a great title,
having anticipated someone with your sensibilities
would one day screw that light bulb into its mystery.
Soon, it’s sending you on errands to find out
who delivers the Frenchman’s groceries each morning,
who he will propose to at night fall.
It promises to showcase your hidden talents,
beginning with those both you and Jean-Baptiste share:
A fascination with solemn, almost penitent, crockery.
Spunk for staring into space. The love of herring.
With time, it begins to stink up the whole house,
your most important relationships.
It glues its poster over your daughter’s face,
as she expresses desire to see the world.
It interrupts your husband calling for you from the bedroom.
Never mind there are things you still want to know –
how, for instance, he could stand sitting indoors day after day,
smelling the vastness of the sea suspended there above his table
and in the raw umber on his hands,
knowing what it did to him
that he never did anything about.
This poem was previously published in Mad Poets Review, 2005
Shelley Benaroya is founding director and teaching artist for the Writing Center for Creative Aging (www.writingcenterforcreativeaging.org). Her poetry has appeared in Diner, The Edison Literary Review, Ekphrasis, The Lyric, Mobius, Thirteenth Moon, and elsewhere. In 2017, she received the Ekphrasis Prize and a Pushcart Prize nomination.
The Ekphrastic Review
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