Still Life

It’s as if all the world’s ravelled, bright particulars

have streamed through a pinhole in the side

of a box, down a corridor of Delft tiles

on which tiny figures from childhood hide

from my self-portrait, ghostly in its dun

vestments, and the servant drying linen in the dunes,

making the images blurry, inverted.  Details

such as these meant something to people once, they

would have recognised the tulips, citrus, overturned bouquet,

the chalice that struts on damask drapes.

Hands behind my back and from my time I gape

at the mantel, a strand of dropped

cargo, tiny figures bent to their commerce at the tendered quay.

Ships ready their serene freight;

I ponder the hourglass, insects, the gap

that puts beyond reach the risqué

hare proferred to an abandoned lute,

pewter languor of a herring on its plate,

crimson fruit chased in lattice light.

Australian Book Review, 'States of Poetry' website March 2017

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