Still Life poem by John Barr image

Still Life

Standing out of time, the

"porcelain bottle
monochrome sang de beouf
Kang Hsi, early 18th c."

does better than the bronzes whose verdigris comes

from a compromise with air,

than silver under nightfall of tarnish,
or iron, fresh-cut the color of daylight,

but soon recouped to rust,

the cup the crack travels a millimeter

the millennium,

tapestries larvally tatterdemalion,
the rest of this place losing its grip to

arms of the damp, acids of air, pell
of the particulate.

The ceramic hull does better than the Liberian

charter whose economics preclude paint,

and the potter who, the story goes, unable to please

the emperor with more of the blood-red ware
that occurred when a pig wandered into his kiln,
himself jumped in, in despair, thereby repeating
the right reducing atmosphere.

From sleep in the hill, long weathering, the levigation

of the basins;

thrown in a time of peace between pressures from the East

and pressures from the West;

compelled by the unlabored decisions of hands to bloom;
it excels in the way it avoids excess:
debased court tastes, self-imitation, virtuosity.

From its base it plums for an ordinary use,
but gathering to the top of its round
it turns, at the same time, into neck,
continuing to rise and taper,
and refuses, at the top, to flare.

From the family of reds found by copper

sacrificial red               tea dust
sky-clearing red         souffle
ox-blood                        liver
rust                                   coral

comes this bing cherry from the accidents of fire.

Displayed in a case
made of Wisconsin molecules, assembled in Queens,
it bears to futures that will welcome it or not
red chemistry and a musical note.

by John Barr

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