“Still Life: An Argument” by Edward Hirsch

Listen, it only takes a moment
to move, to knot ourselves
together like the ends of a rope
longing to be knotted together,

but let’s avoid it, let’s wait.
Ropes, even the sturdiest ropes,
pull, they strain, struggle, eventually
they break. But think of it;

in a still life a knife
pauses above a platter of
meat, it only takes a second, and
poof it becomes the idea of a knife,

the drawing of a knife suspended
in the air like a guillotine
about to weightlessly drop on the
neck of a murderer and send him

shrieking into oblivion forever,
but it never happens, the knife
keeps falling and falling, but never
falls. That knife could be us.

The milk on the table is always
about to spill, the meat could be
encased in wax paper to be
protected from flies, but it’s

not, it’s unnecessary, the flies
threaten to descend on the
exposed meat, but they can’t, they’re
no longer flies, but a painting of flies,

the blood pooled on the platter
of meat never evaporates, it can’t;
look, it’s still there; and if I
never touch you, well then, we never die.

Listen, even lovers have still lives,
have whole months when they hang
together like moths on an unlit
light bulb, waiting for the bulb to light,

but if it never does then the moths
survive, meat should be allowed
to sit on the table forever
without being devoured by flies

and if that’s not possible, well
then we still have this picture,
the still life not of how it will be,
but of how it was, for the knife and the meat

and the flies, and for us the night we
hesitated together. From now on, love,
we will always be about to destroy
each other, always about to touch.

—   “Still Life: An Argument” by Edward Hirsch