Still Life

Michael Hofmann

A sort of overgrown phial,
opaque blown glass of the sort
we once saw them making at Murano,
whitish – with blue? with yellow?

And sticking out of it
that odd trouvaille, a dried yard
of was it hogweed, Schweinekraut,
Schweinswurzel, something swinish about it,

some hollow dill-like plant
withered to articulate straw
that my father half-inched,
like a spindly triffid on the steel table.

It was an artistic endeavour really,
a momentary juxtaposition
that gathered dust, languishing
like umbrella ribs in an elephant’s foot,

in saecula saeculorum.
As it grew dark, he drew the curtains,
so as not to be seen, or not to show
how much he couldn’t see.

There was a drawn atmosphere
as in Buñuel or La Grande Bouffe,
like being locked up overnight
in an impoverished modern art museum

– as it were, Beuys in Buffalo –

and we slumped like astronauts
in the too-low leather seats
while he peeled and chopped fruit
and handed it around.