Poem: “Nature Morte, Palm Beach”


The orange inside the orange is gold:
in this juice the wealth of labor,
its sunshine the ring-decked gleam of the ladies
whose skin is tough and bronzed like the orange,
whose soft thoughts are hidden from their men.

The palm inside the palm burns like a cigarette,
the addict’s love that cannot breathe.
The ladies wave their resilient hands
with their burning wands, and along Cocoanut Row
the palms thrash in the hurricane.

The ocean inside the ocean is a spaniel
endlessly racing, drooling foam for joy.
Again, again, the senile sea
claps at each baby-blue crash.
The ladies own the view behind glass,
shutter the sun in pastel rooms
where the piano and the wheelchair sleep.

The album inside the album has no name
or too many. All the smiles and their objectives blurred
like a glitter of stars without constellation lines.
Look, these were your friends. Look, trophies,
grandchildren, the news. Whose is the charity
for this season?

The woman inside the woman lifts a match to her lips
that hold no cigarette. The burning stick
one more thing not to see, the flame familiar
as her late husband’s golden apologies.
Down her breast, a dribble of flame like fresh juice.
And still she stares at the expensive sea,
matches it breath for amnesiac breath.


This poem won a third prize in the 2008 Dancing Poetry Contest, and is included in my chapbook Hound of Heaven, forthcoming this fall from Southern Hum Press. (Their website is down again…arrgh.) “Nature morte” is the wonderfully evocative French name for a “still life”.

12 comments on “Poem: “Nature Morte, Palm Beach”

  1. Steve says:

    Woo hoo! I read the entire thing, agape at the “rightness” of so many of the phrases, not realizing it was yours (after all, you feature so many people’s work on your blog). The first stanza had to be read three times, there is so much going on there. Big stupid grin on my face. All those different insides and outsides. The way the poem progresses through those innermost portions works so well. And then the palm and cigarette images (in those ladies’ fingers) – also so Palm Beach. And the lines about the senile sea – brilliant.

    And I’ll have a copy of this – and my art on the cover. Very very very cool. I can hardly wait.

  2. I guess I could have called it “The Disciple Inside the Attorney,” in line with the poem. But I stumbled across your site and noticed you were “an ex-lawyer” and “a Christian convert,” so I thought you’d appreciate my post this morning called “Can Anything Good Come Out of Law School?”

    Grace and Peace,
    Raffi Shahinian
    Parables of a Prodigal World

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