Dutch Masters, by Joshua Ambre
On a bed an island over broken glass we make
the air hoarse with the drone of power tools
saws or drills or nail guns
surging with pressure, surging
with the two of us
over whitecaps of skin
through whirlpools of hair
the kind that curls up next to night.
It’s cold in the city
and it’s cold in us too—us two
in the bed over the one broken glass
from our cupboard, the first
real loss but the hundredth in a series
I imagined, bored, every day
a still life sans
dried figs, wrung goose, molded cheese
a life lacquered with oil but somehow still
incombustible. I sink
my teeth into an apricot
just to feel inflamed.
is the last motion I can remember
a thick momentum in my limbs.
I brought with me a silver tray
enameled in cracked cerulean
an offering of emptiness, a place
to put loose change, spare keys
things we might need later, always later
because now is never the time
for laundry or locked doors, only for lying
naked on the bed over broken glass we
Poured as if it were water, as if those shards
were the liquid we needed to soothe
throats hoarse from yelling
the throat a flesh-covered power tool
drilling into silence, cutting up calm
making the air itch with the stillness
of a sentence just ended, of a promise kept
too long, left out overnight like
you a gasping fish and me
a waxy, spoiled fruit.
Our flavor is its own palate, its own platter
cracked and blue.
In school they taught us energy
comes in two forms: kinetic and potential
the falling and the about to
fall. In a fluster of sheets, white tablecloths
loose in Rembrandtian darkness
I wonder which we are.
If the former where are we going?
If the latter what are we waiting for?
Saws or drills or nail guns
the droning still sounds the same.
We think maybe love
just needs space to grow, the way our
dried fig skin, hand-wrung hair needs
oil or water or things that don’t
mix the way we do, our mouths
yellow with morning and sour
as cheese. I kiss
the hollow of your ear
just to start the noise, to stop us
from becoming what we already
Are and what I never
thought we’d be, Dutch masters
of dim outlooks, broad brushstrokes, and tables
weeping with plenty, full
of opportunity, devoid of choice
the way we are this morning in bed over
the broken glass on the floor
forbidding us from leaving
shaming us for staying, for not getting up
to grab the broom. For not sweeping
our remnants in the trash.
The afternoon becomes a riddle then
one whose answer is
like all answers a question that’s
overflowed, unable to contain
the light seeping in at the corners:
Is a still life still life?
Neither one of us knows, and so we make
love make do.
Joshua Ambre is a writer and recent graduate from the University of Arizona, where he earned degrees in Creative Writing and Classics. His fiction and poetry have appeared in the University of Arizona's Persona and Cornell University's Rainy Day, and he was named a poetry finalist in the 2015 Lex Allen Literary Festival at Hollins University. He is currently living and working in Boston.
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