Ekphrasis: Adriaen van Utrecht

by Jessica Clark

Still-Life with Hare and
Birds on a Ring

and birds on the table
and artichokes on the table
and melon or squash
and cabbage—maybe—
some crinkled green leaf placed
to capture the light
to imitate the shape
of a splayed out wing

It must be a cool season.
This table spread
with game and late fall harvest
would warm you.
Can you smell it yet?
Rabbit and cabbage stew;
roast duck with boiled squash
and buttered artichoke.
Just the aroma could slip
the chill from your skin
like satin pushed off
your shoulders.

The duck hangs by one left foot
as if its right has squirmed free of its bindings
and now it’s preparing to dive, dive
out of this portrait and straight down into the depths
of the lake from whose shore it was captured.

But the hare, rear legs awkwardly propped
on a wicker basket (as no one but an artist
would organize their pantry) has given up, resigned
itself to the cruel tricks life plays on us all—
whatever comes will come
say the dead eyes of the lifeless hare.

No wound is visible, and so
I cling to the possibility that he will kick
free of his bindings, upsetting the basket
and bird corpses, and slip through cold, hungry hands, and
for one season more be wild,
for one season, stay free
of warm stew pots and greedy stomachs.

Image credit: Still Life with Hare and Birds on a Ring, dated 1646-1649, by Adriean van Utrecht (1599-1652)