Still Life by Daniel Enjay Wong: “Sometimes I am a pillar/in a hospital room, halfway between support/and ornament.”

Still Life

Look at Pompeii. I never read the Bible
too closely, but I imagine that even among foreign rubble
lies a salted body. Sometimes I am a pillar
leaning in a hospital room, halfway between support
and ornament. Once, I met a patient
who created art and cells,
in that order. As if he himself were the doctor,
the man spoke evenly, held his cards
like they were all the same card, spelled benevolent, a word
that rarely means harmless. A cell is a circle and a circle
is an inevitable shape, like the ring of sight
through which you drink the world. Similarly,
the artist attacks his canvas
the same way he knows the other side of a mirror
is real. Pause. Did I have any questions
about Kandinsky, about
the prevalence of cancer in the inventive? Yes,
I wished for his wars, but he seemed
like the kind of man my father would talk about, and I don’t know
what kind of man I am. That night I dreamed
of autophagy, a body eating its own organs
like a Russian doll, an inverted star,
nothing and everything lost. Light over dark:
this is how you scumble.

Daniel Enjay Wong’s work has appeared in Tin House, The Baltimore Review, and PANK. He is a medical student at Brown.

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