- Vol. 10
- Chapter 05
Please rewrite in the style of Samuel Beckett
In the still life, life is still,
Objects poised and motionless
A banquet, frozen in time's chill,
Awaiting feasters, but none to bless.
A morbid beauty, this array
Of food and drink, untouched, unknown
A tale of life, or so they say,
But life's departure here is shown.
The silence echoes, loud and clear
No sounds of laughter, clinking glass
No scents of food to greet the ear
Just stillness, stillness, en masse.
In this tableau, time stands still
The banquet is, but not for whom
A lifeless life, a deathly thrill
A monument to time's own tomb.
First, take the lobster
crack its chitinous carapace
suck the juices from the
once magnificent creature
alien to us, but easily destroyed
slurp the roe, countless futures
turn next to the dog
begin by consuming
its hair, back to front
keratin and chitin are both
sources of protein
so don’t avoid cracking the lobster
shell between your teeth
marrow from the dog’s bones
stewed monkey brains served
in a dish made of its own skull
fruit, fresh, fermented, sickly sweet
of the earth, earth you fill your mouth with
next turn to the wine-skin, wrapped in wicker
consume the contents, then the skin
finally, fill your mouth with the brittle, sharp
wicker, and chew, allow the pointy edges
to pierce your gums and fill your mouth
Angles on a Feast
shell crack and finger suck
strong red nippers
powerless among these
white bones, nail crescents gleaming
each watches the others
lips crustacean shiny
pursed to kiss foreign flesh
and pale throats like larks
the rise and fall
such inappropriate slithering
easy as mothers’ milk
there’s conversation too
daintier than doilies while
in rouged and chapless cheeks
mutton is wetly tucked,
tongues released for lashing
and under the table
the maltese and the marmoset
trade views on goatee fads
their soft brown eyes
judgeless but impudent
among slender ankles
The Serving Maid Comments
Riches beyond belief,
not an embarrassment,
an achievement—so my master says,
sprinkling fancy words like precious spices
to season his statements,
he turns a chiaroscuro spotlight on the bounty.
No herring and cheese here. No,
it’s lobster on platters brought from China,
wine, not beer, and monkeys captured with
human cargo, sold to the highest bidder.
But wealth has its burdens,
even my mistress takes up her paintbrush
between popping out babies. It’s a well-ordered house.
And so, I wash and clean and cook and swaddle,
drooling over the food I’ll never taste, that will spoil
without being eaten. It’s my duty to help with the display—
a golden age in golden light, each painting a beacon lighting the way
for generations to come.
Goblin green grapes
Stupor like weapons.
Round bullets birthed
From God’s hand.
The lobster protrudes.
The unsaid vow of love braves the sea.
I will never see the light of day.
Swallowed by whales, I seek
Grass-fed music splinters
The soupy silence.
The mystic purple figs drag
The truth from me.
I am hollow now.
It’s all too much –
too much to munch
for lunch, my eyes
the size of plates
of meat and fish
and every dish
awash with fruit
to suit the taste
of every guest,
both man and beast,
at my behest
to share this feast
of food and wine,
to dine, to sup
from bowl and cup
and off the floor
where lost fruit lies
and flies emerge
to gorge on flesh,
so fresh and sweet,
while bugs soak up
the spill from jugs
that fill the cups
from which we gulp
our wine, our juice,
to sluice away
the pulp and rind
Your eyes deceive you; everything does
See, I always thought Adrian of Utrecht
Was a man but no, he — she — was in fact
A woman like the one in Rocky, you know?
Stallone all sweat and blood
Face crushed to a pulp by Carl Weathers
Blind and bellowing Adrian! Adrian!
She wasn’t even from Utrecht either
That was just her name like, I dunno
Wendy Stockton or something yes
I know Wikipedia says he — she — was a man
But you can’t trust anything you read online
Peer-reviewed or not, I mean look at Chat GPT
No matter how convincing the words seem
It's only ever a reflection of truth a story
Oil on canvas code aping life inaccurate
Apricots and algorithms impressive yes
But still not real nothing you should trust
I mean basically it’s all a lie every word.
Digestion: a journal
For days, four days,
forelegs of a
journey, we went hungry!
was poor with pigs
that could not
chew things through.
Even so, we took notes:
"Of its kind this cow is kine."
"I wish we could have
a stomach like a heart."
In the valleys, two-legged fowls
took wing. Few flew.
In ponds, in lakes
scaly fish swam.
Yes, before our eyes. They used
fins. So would you.
Thinking in Terms of Flesh
In terms of flesh, the furrier the better,
from apricots to my sweet pup,
skin covered with hair
is softer, fluffier.
Give me ham, salty Jambon,
I need my guilty pleasures,
let the monkey play begin.
Send in the clowns –
orange bug-eyed shellfish with
claws, the better to pinch and grab
me out of tedious ruminations.
This spring of rebirth
is taking me to too fresh of a place.
Just for a moment,
return me to the harvest table,
home to sun-warmed grapes.
Opulence is alive
at this horn of plenty,
regret finds no hold
in a mouthful of ripe berries.
The Lobster Sees All
Crustacean eyes glared at me as I dropped the fruit,
This wasn’t the dinner I would have chosen,
It was supposed to be my celebration,
Instead, once again he’d made it all about him,
And now the inedible lobster was judging me.
I’d have preferred simple,
Perhaps a crepe or some soup,
A good wine and a walk on the beach.
But here we were, a dining room circus,
Full of noise, heat, chatter, and piled plates toppling,
There’s only so much richness you can take,
Before it sits lumpen within you,
Clogging your life force.
You begin to crave steamed green vegetables,
And the energy to run free.
Turning a grape between my fingers,
I watch the tumbling ensuing.
The rising decibels grating,
Overheated jowls flushed and wobbling,
The fruit basket incident unnoticed.
I have become invisible to all but the lobster.
Pressing too hard the grape explodes.
Juice drips from my fingers like blood,
A taste of sweetness splatters the corner of my mouth,
My tongue darts to dab it.
This is the moment of the garden:
peeling vines and fronds of laurel
this is the time of our chromachination.
This is the day we peer at the sunset
gaping at the wounded clouds. I want
you to know there is always a garden.
There will always be a garden. Violet
buds, squirrel tails, waves of somatotropin.
We are growing / time / incessantly,
in the blooms of blood-rich bruises.
This is the moment that a new child crawls
towards a sun-tipped buttercup.
And there will be crises. There will be terror
studding an unimaginable future. But
someone, somewhere, far out there
will always plant a garden.
Murderous IntentThe new addition drives MonKey crazy. Up until now he's been the reigning king in the Cubehold, showered with love and cuddles and peanuts and bananas. Now there's CoTTon, Coton de Tulear, Royal Dog of Madagascar proclaimed Madame M. as she waltzed in the Cube after returning from her last intergalactic voyage, cradling the white bundle of fur. MonKey is kicked out from the hierarchy, he feels the switch in the air. Barely a greeting from Madame M. who parades CoTTon in front of her ChatScreen, chattering away with her parents and relatives from Earth. The praise heaped on CoTTon makes MonKey cringe with envy, omg look at that silky fur, how precious, how cute, how adorable, how did you manage to find this treasure, is he for real? Trending photos flood the Net, a glowing review by ChatGPT, Breaking News! Real, non-genetically modified or cloned Coton de Tulear! scrawls across InterLunar Networks. There is even a feast in CoTTon's honor. MonKey can't remember the last time Madame M. had ordered her kitchen staff around so harshly. Head chef, sous chef and kitchen maids slide and bump against each other like chipless robots gone fever rogue, metal banging and grating. Plumpy walnuts, velvety peaches, sweet grapes, crisp apples, organic Pinot Noir synthesized and displayed with bundles of scarlet winter berries as decadent as a Roman feast Madame M. likes to replicate on the Moon. MonKey taunts the newcomer with holly berries, see these, aren't they pretty, pretty little beads, oh how delicious they are, oh ah, so good, so pretty—would you like to taste some? CoTTon stares at MonKey, barks, sniffs the air and whimpers to Madame M. who shouts, MonKey! OFF now! MonKey shuts down with a woomp. Madame M. shelves him in her cabinet of curiosities. Need to reprogram it, she thinks, decrease settings of Jealousy, Envy and Malice.
Talking to AI about still life
To relate to its constituent parts
Move in diagonals left to right
The point of a flute, lute, guitar or flask
To a perch or drape, or a lemon twist
In nature nothing is straight
Copy the curve of the lute
To the dog’s (cropped) behind
Like echoes in a cave, they shout
Like visual curves of sounds
From china plate to melon rind
From lobster or guitar or flask
Admire (can you do that?)
Appreciate then the textures
Grain, gleam, white light, reflect on
Contrast, red, blue, tones of purple, brown
Verisimilitude – artfully placed
And that’s the skill – a camera
Could do it sure –
There’s an art to selection
Read more >
An Embarrassment of Riches
The diverse bounty mounted here
The display of wealth and plenty
The overflowing cornucopic deluge
Set out to impress – overwhelm – spark envy...
Then step through the picture plane
To see all wasting before your eyes
This mingling of scents does not describe a feast
But a festering
Ripe fruits over-ripen and decay
Meats sat out for days
Fresh or cured – gather flies
Until all is blown
Ready nourishment turns steadily into the inedible
As an alluring perfume putrefies
With passing time and toil to spoil
And turn stomachs
Consider the empty-bellied onlooker
In the world beyond
Who can only look on
As gnawing hunger eats them away
Today, I see no beautiful homage to nature’s bounty
I cannot marvel at technique as I was schooled
Today, I see only –
A mortifying display of bad taste
(re)Consider the Lobster
Requisite grapes – both red and green? Wonderful.
Galvanized clawfoot bronze beverage tub? To be sure.
A Havanese with a Continental Trim? Why not.
And throw in some ripe plums and apricots for good measure.
Still not enough? Fine. A Common Squirrel Monkey, then.
Neither David Foster Wallace nor the author of these words
have a problem with even one of the aforementioned.
It is the red glow of the lobster that outshines them all.
Red. The color of vitality, of which it has none.
Red. The color of blood, if it ever had some.
Red. The color of a lobster no living lobster has yet seen.
Red. The color of poisonous frogs, poppy petals, and
all stop signs that, when ignored, also lead to death.
And speaking of signs, when all inclusions of a given tableau
are to speak to the viewer of vitality, of life to the full,
then it seems in poor taste to accentuate the dead crustacean.
Lobster is delicious. Granted.
Therein lies the problem.
Fine. A substitute then. What might we consider?
A tantalizing block of snow-white tofu, knife at the ready?
A pile of navy and black turtle beans, gloriously intermixed?
Maybe yams, or palm hearts, or seitan would suffice?
No. Of course, none of those will do. And why not?
Because they do not scream upon death, the sound
of the conquered, the only language we are fluent in now,
and surely, the only language we were fluent in then.
The World is Your Lobster
Yes. Feast your eyes. I am the centrepiece, after all. Summer’s expanding belly come to laze, somnolent. The sun, a kind benevolence on this good life. Eat your fill and be done. I siesta, waiting for you, of all the ways you’ll bite. Fully-fleshed. My skin pinks in the sun. Or maybe I’m just blushing with ooh, thoughts.
The fruit falls when the branch that sprung it can no longer hold its ripe-round heft. Thud. Come, take of me. Nothing sweeter. Gorge. It’s destiny.
The time so close to harvest. Such wealth peaking, you forget how close it is to waning, when time thins and shadows blue, the light becomes the other side of orange. When warmth shivers. A time to curl up, nestle.
But first, the outing. Laying it all out, this fine, fine spread. Unmissable. For Bacchus, for Osiris, for Demeter. The grape is an equation of elements and asks for alchemy. It wants crushing, to brouhaha. And then to languish. To be drunk with power. Come, take of the generous grape. The gods are at the table and wish to make a toast.
AN UNEXPECTED THING
Abundance in a partly-starving world – buxom fruit
left to spill from buckets, bowls… off tables draped
to decorate a feast, reveal resentful awe from
side-lined witnesses whose mouths would slacken
at the sight, smell... and lack of guardians. Offered
to the air, to wild things. But if abandoned in panic,
left in the scattering desertion for safety, creatures
approaching would cower at such testing, and
once tasted, that burden of scents, unchecked gluttony
will arrive in a rush, splashed in juices, saliva,
growls from fellow diners. When the birds descend
beaks are swords, claws daggers into snaffling noses,
hard-working tongues, until first responders are sated,
sit back in astonishment at the rapid onslaught.
Latecomer squawks will tear a cacophony of outrage
imagining what was lost and the luck of the lower classes.
Digging graves with our teeth
Stomach growling, mouth watering, anticipation of hunger sated, thirst slaked,
the gut feelings running the long track from first Man to us,
the gnawing at the bones, reducing vision to a tunnel of survival.
Fruit plucked wormy from trees, shells, carapaces snatched from waves and rocks,
prised apart with stones, slick with slime, slicing finger-flesh.
Hunting, the bite of cold, searing sand beneath bare feet, sinews,
muscles unenrobed in fat, and death dogging each step, but no going back.
How long that road, rock-strewn, of life on knife edge, to this, living to eat,
to wallow in superfluity, excess, and the Romanesque decadence
of throwing peacocks’ tongues to the dogs.
Dinner Is Served
It’s just a matter of time, you know.
The scene is set. Basket overturned
fruit spilling to the floor. I can hear
them roll on the wood. Clutter
of grapes bleached from sun that no
longer shines inside the frame. Gnarled
vines, leaves still attached, remind
us that the cornucopia so displayed
once grew from bush, tree, or ground.
This is not their home. This scene is set.
A painter positioned the boiled red lobster
in the key position of a family platter.
Someone had to peel that lemon on the left.
That’s a nice touch, the way the rind spirals
down as so much else in the painting
flows down, threatens to spill, a miniature
cascade on the white tablecloth, draped,
as if haphazardly, but we know different,
don’t we? Clever designer to let the tendrils
of the kumquat hang against the white
swath of cloth, an image that has been
painted over the cloth, cloth painted
onto the off-white fibers of the canvas. Yes,
this still life of cut roast, fruits, and shellfish
Henry VIII would have admired. But
the dragon delights in his dinner
the dragon delights in his dinner
dead angles terminating in the sun
washed careful for the presentation of the feast
long arms and head
the dead paraded slow past the king
to march into the sea
the name of a kingdom erased from books
written into the faces of my brothers
She wants it all
ripe and juicy
ready to be gulped down
my belly a fragrant loaf
on a table of earthly delights
set for her alone
my pale breasts gleam and quiver
moonlight shivering on a deep lake
their thin skin betrays
the pomegranate soul of me
a familiar fingernail scores my thighs
pork-crackles my flesh
with tender cruelty
and as the flames rise
my throat releases an agony
A Discussion Between Experts
Edith searches for a pear. The pear. Because that’s her favourite fruit.
Edna doesn’t search for a pear. The pear. Because she wants to prove that what’s not visible can still exist.
Erica searches for a pear. The pear. In white pouches, behind sharp claws, she rummages in the dark. There are no pears, so she paints one and the creator shakes, rattles and rolls the room. Chinese platters take a dive. Wicker narrowly misses pup, and plump plums take a bow. Erica believes in changing the canvas. She lifts her chin and defies Mr. van Utrecht.
Edna and Erica state, in arms akimbo, that even if Edith had discovered a green pear, she would have said—they’re willing to place bets—it’s not my favourite fruit anyway. I don’t care. Edna and Erica add that some people—not mentioning any names—focus on what’s missing, knowing it’s missing, never full despite abundance.
Applause from the cloud-filled sky.
Erica shuffles next to Edith and suddenly they're best friends forever. They exhort the virtues of concrete. Visibility equals proof of existence.
Thunder, lightning, dark backgrounds, trees, curtains, laundry trying to dry, freeze.
Still Life at the Rock Climbing Gym
Set just for us,
The wall waits.
Many things to grasp,
Many things to make our own as we hold them.
Front-lit by the gym lights, the wall is strangely bright
And all else fades into shadow
As we fix our eyes on the climb.
To start, a yellow sloper
And a jug; our hands clench
Reflexively as we envision their texture
On our palms.
Next, a clump of textured grapes,
Requiring a dynamic move to the right
And a precise grab to avoid slipping. There
Is little to stand on, but two long pinches
Are there if we can squeeze ourselves by.
Finally, a series of hand-sized slopers lead
To the finishing hold:
Technical, tricky, and dusted with a waterfall of chalk –
easy to spill off of
If we’re not paying attention.
But oh, to close our hands around that lovely, jutting
Chalice of a hold at the end.
We move our arms in strange, curled gestures,
Aping the moves we need to make
While the wall waits.
Oh the decadence of death!
How the man who reigns your kingdom carries the weight of many souls,
The lobster, steak and caviar than will line your stomach,
The leather that lines your shoes.
Each step taken on your sheep skin rug,
Gliding past your stag taxidermy mounted on the wall.
Oh the decadence of death!
The stench of your wealth must carry a burden,
Yet one claims its much easier to carry in your crocodile skin bag.
Blinded by the realities, the gold and diamonds much to bright.
What will make you change, to make things right?
Oh the decadence of death!
Promises of fruit
A conjuring of light and shade,
this illusion of the artist,
writ by patient brush,
and proliferated strokes
of pigmented oils.
The eye sees and applauds,
and fair enough.
But the transcendent mind
is not beguiled by these
mere promises of fruit.
It seeks instead the shadow spaces
where hides, in misty shades,
the unseen faces,
fey phantoms of the artist's mind.
They are waiting, perhaps
for our backs to turn
then they shall gurn out their insults
at the shallowness
of these, our waking lives.
But if you wait long enough,
and wish it so,
you will catch them
as they morph from black
to seamless shades of grey,
and you will not be fooled
by promises of fruit, again.
Our Daily Bread
I, a Mainer,
conditioned to think of lobster
as my alter ego—
no, that's not right.
I mean (Pavlov's dog
in the lower right hand corner),
This is a horn of plenty
without the horn.
A fest without a feaster—
except for the eyes.
And if one's eyes are bigger
than one's stomach, all the better.
I seem to be talking about something.
Food. Is a picture a substitute
for the real thing?
Try it, and eat the menu.
Where Do You Draw The Line?
The linen’s never normally that clean…
They must’ve bought it for the occasion.
And at what cost, too! All for the induction
of the ambassador. Protocol followed precisely
to impart our fine flemische influence, I hear.
What could be more impressive, more opulent,
such a portrayal of our worldly competence
than the entertainment of our showpiece:
our Indonesian aap! Or is it Angolan… Anyway
who cares, we all know what that means,
wink wink. And all that sumptuous stone fruit
shipped fresh from our vigorous kolonies
oozing with you-know-what! (Need I say more?
Don’t want a snoop to dob on us for a quip.)
I’m so famished I could rip open those plums,
each kweepeer, the melon, even! God, I’d gorge
on those grapes til my teeth turn to rot. And don’t
get me started on the game. If no-one was looking
I’d tear the claws off that lobster, suck out
the juices, chew the dead man’s fingers
til it’s all but pulp. And you know, once I’ve had
these hands at it all, I might even go for the hond,
that belly so pink and lean! And there’s no doubt
you’d do the same, right? Given the chance?
What Do You Call This Place
where the leavings of dinner linger
wait in abundance, present opportunities
for the canine and simian residents?
What do you call this place where grapes
and peaches, berries and beef heap
near the boiled body of a lobster
tipped in tandem to the excess of the evening?
What do you call this place where a surf
and turf extravaganza is served with Chianti
as a lemon peel hangs with indifference?
Perhaps you call this place
a room of intemperance where privilege
was withdrawn from a cascade of cash
or a catalogue of credit where the line items
trip into an inky pool, a blur of debt
Silk of a Thistle
There's no getting closer
to it than breathing in its
It's the weight of nostalgia.
It's the tangles, and voices,
scars, and echoes of a feast.
Life is thistle and silk, and
those grapes spread out like
a galaxy, whilst the hungry
fast out of necessity.
Lobster on a plate. A cracked
exoskeleton, and we slobber
over spills of ripe damsons
and freckled pears, and toast
to eternity as fruit withers,
and the ice returns to water.
Life is just silk of a thistle.
It was supposed to be the centre-piece.
Instead, drunk on sumptuous abundance,
It had metamorphosed into a sentry,
A guardian with sharp claws
That made a clackety-clack,
And changed it from a target for elite consumption
Into something altogether more sinister.
A snap had stopped the monkey in its tracks.
It had settled for a spilled basket of fruit,
Grudgingly – no substitute for a leg of roast boar.
Even though noble Lords and Ladies had had their fill,
The lobster was determined no common folk
Would get more than a bruised apple, grape or fig –
Not on its watch, not whilst its claws were intact.
The fact of the matter has not escaped the hound.
It has always been happy to just accept crumbs
That have fallen from its master’s table,
But it too could play the part of watchman for a while.
It had bribed the shellfish to poison the wine.
It was now just a question of watching and waiting
Until the snoring and rising and falling
Of swollen bellies had stopped.
WHAT? WHO? WHY? HOW? WHEN?
How human am I? How much capacity can be subsumed?
Placed in an electronic neural network stretching everywhere,
that is not so constrained as me by cranial confines.
If a witch prisoned my hand, her dagger poised at temple,
waiting for the flinch, the animal demand to self-preserve,
would I, could I pass the test that calls me human?
But then, that climber trapped so deep between
a rock and a hard place, who choosing life cut off his arm?
Would he fail the witch’s test? Is he less human for his life?
If humans really are more capable than greedy monkey with
its fist-clenched treats entrapped in narrow neck, unable
to release itself though mortal danger lurks in wait —
then, why do I indulge in diets that are known to shorten life?
Why consume the stimulants, the depressants against all of
medical advice? The hangover itself will tell me off, yet I imbibe.
More than lobster, but that creature feels its pain for sure,
in all its brains, and lives its life as self-aware as any other
animal, in their niche. Nor yet under the water can I breathe.
Less than master gardeners, cultivating the finest peaches,
geneticists combining traits at will, or chefs displaying all
their culinary skill to offer up a feast. Yet gladly I consume.
Less than search engine coursing through the information
universe but more today by feelings’ virtue, connected
senses, empathy that comes from self. And yet, and yet,
might not an android, not so far away and then becoming
I’m all dressed up, face caked with paint. I sit at the head of the table, people on either side of me. The person I face blinks back at me, waiting. I feel my lips move up in a small smile.
I turn to the person on my right. I don’t know their name. They’re wearing a loud tie, with fruit embroidered on it. The red of the grapes is all I can focus on. “Shall we begin?”
The people carve and cut and serve. I sit smiling like an idiot, occasionally leaning over to murmur something in someone’s ear as they lean over to serve me something, or to mutter a ‘thank you’. The only moment the smile fades even a little is when I lean down to adjust my dress, when the table hides my face.
Once everyone’s plates are filled, they look at me once more. Most of their faces hold anticipating smiles, some look vaguely hostile (they may be smiling but their eyes give everything away). I clear my throat and get to my feet.
“To us,” I say. “May we continue to love each other as we do now. Let us cherish this moment.”
My voice sounds cheery. Cheery, but not sugary. Cheesy, but it sounds sincere. I know it does because the girl on my left claps happily. She looks nervous. She’s a fan.
The girl was chosen, apparently. She’s dressed in yellow, looks down at her hands or her plate most of the time. She sneaks glances at me, smiles happily when I acknowledge her. When the time comes, she tells her story. We clap when the time comes, and I tell her she always has a friend in me. It’s malicious really, the way everyone is cheering. Everyone knows she’s really just a crumb on the plate. But I’m perhaps being too harsh.Read more >
You wouldn't believe it unless you'd seen it;
their high table groans under such luscious fare,
gathered from all corners of our known world –
nurtured in the loamy earth, netted from oceans
and hunted in woodlands. Juice-burst grapes,
rich meat hung for weeks, mushrooms dug
from forest floors, floury potatoes, flat fish
served with lemons, lobsters ready to boil
and die, berries plucked from thorny hedges:
all this served with heavy scented wines
to fill the bellies of my Lord and Lady,
their cousins, friends and allies. Their pet mut,
silk-coated, gorges on droppings from their laps;
this dog eats better food than me. Before I serve
each day's rich dishes, I cram my mouth
with dry bread and small beer
to avoid temptation and prevent fits of fainting.
You wouldn't believe it, unless you'd seen it; unless
you'd stayed your own, treacherous hand – fingers
intent on stealing my Lord's forbidden, leftover scraps.
Unless you'd risked shame and maybe execution.
Banquet Still Life: An Empire of Riches
A banquet, a celebration. A lavish spread of textures and colours, with bright fruits, deep wines, and sweet cheeses. An intricate arrangement of abundance in food and luxurious goods, creating colliding worlds of far-away colonial spaces intermingling with the familiar and domesticated. The scene is an eclectic and vibrant mix of contradictions. The depiction of the spoils of Dutch imperialism spilling out from its frame, the juicy ripeness of the fruits giving a bittersweet reminder of the country's acquired power. The overabundance, so vivid and alive, carries a somber mood for the contemporary viewer, filled with the muted silence of a reflection on the price and history of conquest. And what of the monkey and the dog? The monkey grasps a branch and holds fast. Perhaps it is a branch of friendship, of welcome, and as a reminder of the ideology that brought the Dutch empire to Asia. Of honourable profit and ideals of global exchange based on peace and mutual benefits. The dog is curious, ears perked up in interest and eyes filled with wonder, does it understand the message? Honestum et utile.
What you see on the table by the sea
where once a count dined with his eyes stoic
foreseeing his imminent doom doesn't call for
murmuring 'Hedonism' as if you lead
a Spartan life with one wooden trunk holding
all your earthly desires and possessions
as well doubling as a table.
A few of your miniscule animal-pleasures stand here
baffled with the freedom to devour a buffet of words,
amidst those names we give to the things –
those gravity's fruits, opacity of the cheese,
promise of life in demise from the tenderloin,
or the translucence of the lobster.
The waiter whispers, "Here, quality becomes quantity.
Here, every night divinity shares roes with sin,
and one tells the other that everything is transient,
alive between two zeroes."
What do I know? I chew what will go
from one embodiment to another and rot,
and what will perish even before that.
She lays about the room, in damp pools of shadow, so fresh from the shed.
Her long hair, soft like the shell she wore before the freeing horse piss.
To the world, eyes focused on the lost shed shell, they see only a thing.
A person defined and defiled by the freedom of metamorphosis.
They’d eat her, boil every bit of her with butter and lemon.
Then call her perverse, because they savored her for the object she is.
And isn’t that a part of what she wants. To be perfect enough to burn.
But she’d lived a life being consumed already, in a world with mouths
It is a promise.
The other promise of life is death, and so it did she die
Just as she died a man, she died a woman too. Shed a corpse.
A new creature, harder on the outside, and loved inside.
A life unfettered by the gaze. Stronger for those they love.
Still I wonder the joys they left on their second death, to be an object.
Because they know the taste of it, the juices and joy of it.
Palate consumed by it, but the object unconsumed.
There is no object in their world.
Low vantage point for chimney piece,
a banquet, feasting painterly,
the open pasty, parrot, score,
would broaden menu, meal unscene,
keep monkey, shaggy dog story
as lesser players on the screen.
This AI knows frame incomplete,
reduced the stretcher, trompe l’oeil;
insist, this horizontal kept –
repaginate your enterprise.
You’ve said your piece, for what it’s worth,
(though nothing there), tried, judged your case,
so note, N.B., parenthesis;
now stay, your space – this, whole, display.
Who told you so to interfere,
cut back such art for your pre-planned –
no rhyme or reason to complain
or justify this craft disdained,
just brushed aside, gone at a stroke,
when oeuvre range spread open wide?
So take your care, step back in place
and know what’s master of your race.
Hereafter what may choose, be, who;
now state that as a complement.
GoGo’s Still Life
grapes too many
but only one
nuts on nuts
but no cracker
could be better
not one would
with a health
still life makes
Spitz & Spider Monkey
Spitz gazes at the untouched banquet.
Thinks the brazen, hairy child shouldn’t
touch the sprig of decorative cherries
under the table regardless of his, or
the hosts, intentions. Sound the alarm,
or not? Risk opportunity to vacuum
remains of gluttonous merriment.
Spider Monkey spies an opportunity,
with only the mutt as barking witness,
to supplement a diet of tough dried fruit,
and housebound arachnids. The cherries
will not be missed, as suggested by
their placement below the succulent
surf ‘n’ turf smorgasbord above.
Among the abundance of flowers and fruit,
pale yellow, cream and green, a small dog
observes a monkey pick a jewelled berry,
while, from the backdrop of crisp white linen,
the behemoth rises, cooked to perfection,
bright red, rocking the still life, more alive
than dead, its coral crowning the feast –
and an ocean is hauled to the table
in the carapace of the beast.
join the dance
camouflaged, in deep waters,
rest god-heads and fish-heads
blue-blood running through their veins
and red regal claws clamber
over the shell of a dream
where all life is motionless
richly glazed in oil –
while in the underworld
a flame gathers pace
the pot begins to boils
and we all join in the dance.
plums, ham, a lemon half-
peeled, the huge lobster
an abundance amazingly
emerges from my brushstrokes
but I can’t draw, never mixed
colours or held a palette
my hand receives guidance
highlights, shadows, shapes appear
it’s not me of course, as a premium
subscriber I can choose Mondrian
Jackson Pollock, Raphael
I’ve gone Dutch, a still life
I know nothing but discover
I am considering composition
tint and hue, I thrill to create
this false reality, stretching
out my fingers
I almost touch
A LOBSTER’S LAMENT
No paradise in Atlantic burrow,
No mating with calico guy, a hero.
But hissing water engulfing me alive.
Alas, not a single vegan soul in sight.
No Flemish bottom of the sea,
No lace-like sand grain, totally free.
But boring still life of an ancient genius.
Alas, kidnapped fruit; comrades in suffering.
No resurrection in 2023 as the top dog,
No renaissance in Utah as the Ham Rock.
But bustling dog forced to pose in 1631.
Alas, cherry-eating monkey still nearby.
Problems of Etiquette
It was supposed to be a joke, but now it’s here I don’t know which are fruit and which are flowers and I’ve no idea how to get inside a lobster, or a dog, or a monkey, and I notice the tell-tale absence of cutlery. I can get into wine though by smashing the neck off the bottle. The spotless tablecloth is positioned rather lazily, or is it a napkin? Obviously no one who’s had this meal before is available for advice. Perhaps I’m meant to wear it for what’s coming. I hope I’m brave. The wine will help. I wonder how they’ll report it? “The condemned prisoner ate a last meal of…” But I’m laughing so much I can’t go on, and anyway I don’t have to. And now the dog and the monkey are fighting over the ham. To be honest, I’ve had worse days.
Half-baked or embarrassed lobster
and an overdose of fruit, a work
of art that shows inanimate objects
from the natural or man-made world.
A small white dog sniffs the air,
cannot see the platter of meat and
does not want the wine. It all means
something or meant something once:
symbols, signs, declarations of love,
perhaps a sermon about gluttony.
It just makes me feel hungry and
out of my art history depth.
Existence becomes recorded time,
provokes introspection and reflection;
grim reminders of life's brevity
and a subtle warning: now-useless
worldly possessions are painstakingly
rendered to be as realistic and impressive
as possible, imbued with a life beyond
the ordinary whilst we must age and die.
Current Life Worlds of the 17th Century
The dog had evolved in such a manner as to be able to get the food from the humans, and the monkey had evolved in such a manner as to be able to get the food for himself, but the dog had not evolved in such a manner as to be able to get the food from the monkey, which is to say when the dog gazed moon-eyed at the monkey the monkey did not feel the things the monkey would have needed to feel in order become motivated to share some of the food with the dog, which was the thing the humans felt when the dog gazed moon-eyed at them. In other news, the lobster was fucking enormous and also, since the annoying thing about grapes is that you never can tell just by looking at them, the only way to find out if they were firm or not would have been to ask the monkey, but we don't think the monkey had evolved in such a manner as to be able to reply.
Remember me as blue
swimming in the ocean
feasting on molluscs and sea urchins,
the turning tides my life’s rhythm,
zooplankton my community.
I have shed my exoskeleton for the last time
and now lie on a blue edged dish
surrounded by fruits
ripe for eating. But I do not belong here
amongst dead flesh and orchard fruits.
Remember me not as a delicacy
but as sentient being
with dreams of my own
a muddy ocean floor beneath my feet,
the scent of faraway places.
Remember me as I was
before potted and drawn from my home,
claws secured, boiled, plated
and arranged like an exhibit in a painting.
Remember me as blue.
A Tudor Feast
Red jewel lobster
sits atop a crown;
its ghost hovering atop
as a macabre halo;
spectral tentacles trace back,
sensing a life in water –
devoid of garnished trays
and shrill-pitched dogs,
keen to catch a bite.
A monkey fixates,
curiosity creasing brows
while he tucks into fruit,
a well-known favourite;
tiny paws clasping
ruby coins in a feral clasp.
Courtiers swoon in,
adorned in Tudor finery;
beeswax candles paint
fond, soft-edged portraits
as they bend, ebb, flow
amidst a fluid court;
men kiss hands,
bow neatly in decorum
while ladies blush:
a mock bashfulness.
Henry enters.Read more >
Illusions of madness
The guests are amazed
when you make a parrot
and musical instruments appear
with your paint covered hands
all night, until the fire burned
to nothing. We watch bountiful
strings of grapes and baskets
of fruit ascend from your fingers
as the glasses of wine clink
in celebration. I count the fish,
the smell of the dead animals
twists in my throat, as you transform
moonlight into illusions of madness.
Does God know that you make
the fragile exist forever? I wonder
if the magic of beauty is whatever
survives the distance of time.
there was one last feast, there was music and dancing, there was entertainment, laughing. hysteria. monkeys juggling golden apples, dogs devouring medium rare meat, honey dripping, jugs of wine. sugar crystals on my tongue, pearls of berries and silken peaches.
an announced big bang in reverse. a comet, a fireball, a great flood. and then, quieter and quieter, shushing the world. cold.
touch and trash with blood stained fruit soaked fingers, sweetly
paint my pain
the world’s pain
how wouldn’t it be mine
a wound inflicted
onto the empty walls;
let mushrooms sprout, mould
it all into a new world
a soft blanket, still carpet. it is a Life,
and nature prevails, devoid of us.
in an after. quiet getting louder again. a different song sung, a different tune. wildly innocent. islands of abandonment reworlding. the original artwork spreading, flourishing colour.
The debonair days-
The fruits and flowers
Colored like the mud models
Grow beyond all of a sudden.
The claws lie raging red-
The eyes shrunk to a dark point.
By the water on the stone,
We will set the wild berries
And Lucy will watch from below-
Great sadness surrounds
Grape skin stiffened as the walnut shells.
Abandoned peeling of lemon
Now in an infinite loop of time-
Like the sound from a rusted gramophone needle
Escaping with the light from an abandoned room.
Sir Rufus Floofington stood frozen, eyeing the mess in front of him. What had been a meticulously set table was now a disaster. Food, drink and decorations were scattered across the Persian rugs on the floor. The fruit juices, already seeping into the colourful fibres where they had landed, filled the room with a pungent sweetness that crinkled his sensitive nose.
What a mess.
Rufus moved through the room, trying to see whether or not anything was salvageable. He walked on his tiptoes, making sure not to get any of the stickiness between his toe beans. You did not want anything between the beans; it hurt too much. Besides – he pondered as he leapt over an entire fruit basket flipped over – there was no appointment available at the groomers for another fortnight; the agony to live with it until then!
Rufus did one, two, three laps around the centrepiece table and the mess encompassing it. The lobster at the heart of it had, by some miracle, remained upright, balancing on the brink of the plate that held it. A chill ran down Rufus’s spine when he locked eyes with it. Appearing to lock eyes, he corrected himself. As lifelike as it seemed, he knew the bright red crustacean wasn’t alive. Never had been. ”Actual seafood makes for awful buffets”, Madame always said. ”The stench is terrible within half an hour!” That’s why she’d arranged for exceptionally realistic seafood adornments, such as this one. So, Rufus bit down around the instinctive bark that wanted to come out. No use in waking Madame before he’d located the reason behind this mess.
That’s when he saw… whatever it was.
“Close your eyes but don’t drift off yet. Hmm once in a while so that I know you are with me.” Kavi commanded in a soft, lilting tone and I crinkle-closed my eyes. On airless summer nights when the heat gripped us like an apparition and sucked the life out of us- Kavi let me do this walk down memory lane. Kavi called it purging but every time I could sense only plunging.
Yet, like a coin sinking to the deep depths of a river, I confronted the darkness behind my eyelids.
“That Adi Perukku.”
Kavi let me hang in the muted expanse briefly before giving me the still-violent tug.
I could see the spread. The farmer crowd. The excitement. Platters of fruits; mango, musk melon, papaya, jackfruit, jamun, Chiku. All from the soil that they had tilled. Cuts and slices of chicken, mutton and sometimes just one shellfish- like a crowning glory. Fragrant snow-white strings of mogra. A burning bit of camphor in the middle.
“To Appa it was the only day to pray.”
“Hmm.” We didn’t have a separate prayer room in our house. The field was where he spent his time. Cauvery was his Mother-Goddess.
THE EMPEROR WEARS NO CLOTHES
Lying right in the middle of the world,
the Emperor wears no clothes.
And yet the pride is omnipresent,
on his face, round his claws, in the breath
he exhales, mesmerising his compliant
and adoring populace.
being the operative word in his being
― of course the Emperor is
In. The. Pink. Or so he honestly thinks.
Who would dare to object, or
to put forth a different map?
His empire is great, his revanche righteous;
all else is subaltern, less than nothing.
No matter that his brain is founded
on an Eighteenth Century OS
with a coding grossly out-of-date,
no matter that blood flows like rivers
after fierce torrential rain (bombs fall like rain),
no matter the howling of babies or
the freezing-to-death of the old and infirm,
the Emperor’s faith in his destiny remains.
Even though his eyes are so small,
so out-of-place on his puffed-up head,
the ferocity, the determination,
the flexing of muscles is always
an absolutely engrossing parade.
By unbroken bread and uncorked wine,
unpeeled apples, and ripened peaches,
the scene is set by a starched cotton curtain.
A cultural display, a material display.
An unnatural setting presenting dead nature,
inanimate objects staged for prosperity.
Whilst a wistful lapdog wakes
and watches, ponders still life,
an ape succumbs to winking berries.
Look at your floofy, shaved dog,
your exotic pet,
your platters overfilled
with opulent food.
Tell me you won’t
throw it all away
when you’re done—
leave the monkey in a shelter
(or let it loose in the park),
hand the nameless pup to the porter,
let the lobster rot in the trash—
you can always
The Prisoner Shall Have His Choice of Final Repast
I thought to buy time,
a few more days,
perhaps a few more weeks.
To see the days lengthen
until buds broke across the orchards.
To feel the warmth of one last spring.
To hear the dawn's chorus of birdsong,
each territory marked by melody.
A promise is a promise after all
and they were not to know
I'd just as soon have fresh-baked bread,
a wedge of brie, a glass of wine.
They took my list, conferred a while,
agreed among themselves that
while a flagon of oak-casked Port,
a flask of gin, a flitch of bacon
might be found at winter’s end,
apricots and peaches, redcurrants,
might prove a greater challenge.
The governor joined me
for my final meal, shared memories,
sweet white grapes, Morello cherries.
I raised my glass and drank his health.
Unable to reciprocate, he thanked me,
said he’d miss our conversations.
Childhood memories return
As soon as you entered her front door
And yellow light
Illuminated each room
The last person in the town
Refusing the progress
She looked like a character
Waist length hair
Curled as two Catherine Wheels
One near each ear
Had she heard
She was loving
But oh what a prickly chin
Large furniture pieces
Filled each room
The dark red table cover
Of deep pile
Was long enough to hide under
But care had to be taken
Not to disturb
Smoke and mirrors
You are addicted to this drug
You have never dared to name
Before stuffing your mouth with its primal joy;
It could burn your trachea
Without a single berating word, a warning,
A helpful tip on the tip of my tongue
The bridge between who we are
And who we could be
Collapsed in a glory of ailing lungs
Taking in their last breaths full of smoke
We are in love with this love we have never felt,
Spreading into our tissues in the name of life
Your lips are desperate, bathing alone
In the taste of our reheated past;
You are addicted to this life, you need it,
You play the odds, you forgive yourself, you fall behind
Fresh tablecloth, a plethora of hues
Half-rotten fruit abandoned on the floor
There is no end to your cravings
And no space for my love
Your Abundance is Complete
My consumption of you
is as a feast upon my table.
Tallied in sweet succulents,
I find your abundance.
You drape yourself
to draw my eye to
the vividness of your color,
fertile green accompaniments
Your languid ripeness
unwinds among the salty tang,
upon liquid heat
in a delightful cacophony
your feast spreads before our eyes
We dream of
playful in our periphery
drawn as we are
to simple delights.
Making an impression
That obscene display of abundance you see
is my master’s attempt to impress his new inamorata.
Not that I care, one way or another.
They come and they go,
based on his fortunes and moods
as I live out my life with him in quiet comfort.
Unlike the dog, who is cuddly and cute,
but can only offer sympathy with a lick or clumsy paw,
I, empathetic primate with fine motor skills,
can groom my master to offer gentle solace,
for his most recent heartbreak,
or make him chuckle with my antics.
The dog relies on me too,
as he eyes the juicy ham hock,
so aromatic, yet so inaccessible.
He isn’t nimble enough to pick his way
over those beautiful Delft platters,
and he is bound to leave some hair
in the lobster’s claw, the fluffy fool,
or hurt his paws on the upended crab legs,
which terrifies us both for different reasons.
So, he has very strict instructions from me
to behave until I can oblige him,
after I’m done snacking on some cherries.
God is succulent and sweet-tipped,
shut up, Majorie,
you have little friends of your own – icing plates and furry dogs.
Sweet sawdust floating in confetti-shaped felony.
The high lovers and high peaces,
shaped with button noses and rounded-eyelids.
Lift up the lovers and sell the deified.
A deified diet, one a day, two for three.
Buy Love in cylinders, ointments, tree oil.
Liquid glistens and verdantly skins an envelope of the tree,
addressed to Mercy.
She sits atop the vine, awaiting a letter from Destiny.
Goblets sourcing gluey potions and bitter substances.
Full of everything, full of everything they say.
A deathly eye in the reddened sea-creature, looking among the children. The gluttony, a never-ending circle of life.
Blue. I was blue as the true ocean.
Creeled to shore, knew I was always pot-bound,
intranet chatter held talk of my ultimate fate:
my carapace turning to this familiar red.
My joints to be fractured, sucked, spat out, picked over,
made fodder for shell-mound, midden-skimmer
of the future. Lemon tang sharp as the knife
that a Pont de la Tour Café future
glistening up to meet me contained.
I shall become the centrepiece
of another splaying: one where langoustines
dance their leggy can-cans on ice,
where crabs watch the side-shows
of their own destruction.
I am still the centrepiece I deserve to be.
But know we were boiled alive: let's call it for what it is.
my eyes effervescent on the lips of the restroom mirror
pale blisters, beet crumbs, specks of feather-picked flesh
the mirror's center is a tapetum silhouette
night befalls it like the insides of my mouth
light-kissed water bullets on the mirror
soften like chickpeas,
my eyes float like a shredding cobweb in time
darkness osculates pallor
a gecko's womb pukes eggs as corn kernels
my eyes twist time into a portal
leading to the Oliver-Twist streets
the pores of hair on my arms sharpen
into a warm tremor of twigs
like the dismembered soul of peace
is the stampede on an old man's fruit cart
the streets of my land are musical notes
written in vignettes of nacreous clouds
like a dog's canines, my eyes sharpen dandruff-white
the siege of this montage composes its limbs
like a taxidermized lobster –
its glossy surface shrinking like a dying star,
its flesh resolute like the night sky,
its warm aroma like a massaging kiss
and the vanity mirror lights
hum like airplane snores,
in this mirror
I see the hollow pits of stillness
in my eyes