On Seeing a Still Life of Three Slices of Salmon – D. Walsh Gilbert

Naturaleza muerta tres filetes de salmón – Francisco de Goya
after Naturaleza muerta tres filetes de salmón, Francisco de Goya (Spain) 1808-1812

Not functioning muscle anymore, more
the memory of its strength,

a vigor I could never hold
if it were alive. Once, I cupped

a minnow in my hand. Its body writhed
like the tongue

of a liar caught red-handed.
It wriggled until it slipped

from a crack by my thumb.
My ghost-white palm then empty.

Once I cupped a bee loaded with gold
pollen, weighted and kept

from graceful flight.
It should have, but it didn’t sting. It was

barbarian to tap the pollen
off its legs. An artist once

chalked me in pastels
with my brothers. The three of us,

three portrait heads posed,
fighting not to move a muscle.

Our rendering is boxed
in cardboard now, and something

blocks me from unpacking it—
how easily the artist clapped his hands

when he was done, blew off
the dust the color of a cheek slap, and warned us

not to smudge the rosy flesh he’d crimsoned
as our faces.

About the Poet

D. Walsh Gilbert is the author of Ransom (Grayson Books). A Pushcart nominee and winner of The Ekphrastic Review’s 2021 “Bird Watching” contest, she’s currently preparing an all-ekphrastic poetry collection. Her work recently appeared in Gleam, The Dillydoun Review, Quartet, and the anthology, Waking Up to the Earth, among others. She serves with Riverwood Poetry Series and is co-editor of the Connecticut River Review. 

For the first time in nearly five years, Vita Brevis is closed for submission. Read the full story here.

One thought

  1. Dear D. Walsh Gilbert,

    This is such a fine poem, one mark being that it surprises the reader and invites multiple readings. I much admire the language, especially the lines, “Its body writhed/like the tongue/of a liar caught red-handed.” Thank you for the experience your poem created for me.

    All the best,

    Stephen Ruffus

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