Late Portrait

Dried flowers everywhere. Greeting cards. China plates hung on walls, showing a scene from Madame Butterfly, a blacksmith shoeing a dappled stallion, happy serfs clinking tankards at a country inn. Three sets of ceramic wind chimes hanging from a lighting fixture over the oval shaped wooden dining room table. Ornate candle sticks, some inlaid, all sans candles, and minature tinted glass oil lamps with no oil in them, as none have ever been lit. On a shelf-like outcropping high over the sliding glass doors in the family room, just under the ceiling, a tumbled row of woven baskets of various sizes, all empty, one basket shaped like a chicken. Glass fruit bowls: clear glass, green glass, inky blue glass, and one the magenta of cabernet . An extensive napkin ring collection, in sets of eight. Painted gourds. Three antique clocks. Two reclining nudes, one in marble, one in fired clay both with smooth, blank egglike faces. Little blue and white china boxes or laquered wood boxes of various sizes with hinged lids. Photo albums with padded covers in red or cream, stamped in gold. Banged up hardback murder mysteries in a bent wire book rack. Floral boxes of kleenex. A stuffed snoopy dog wearing a headband with a line of hearts on it. A stuffed monkey with elongated limbs wearing a tee shirt bearing the logo of her favorite baseball team. The white kitchen with its hand painted flowered cabinets. Nesting dolls, clay pots, baskets of plastic fruit, patterned wooden bowls. A hooked rug showing a lemon tree heavy with fruit hangs over the fireplace, flanked by an antique bellows and perforated popcorn popper. Painted minatures of birds, dogs, court ladies. Portrait plates, commerative coffee cups with patriotic, pro animal rights or affectionate messages. Candles the shape and size of mushrooms. A set of heavy rectangular glass ashtrays of graduated sizes with a design of hairlike black squiggles. A metal bowl shaped ashtray lined with colorful stamps from foreign lands sealed inside its clear plastic. Antique dolls slumping out of their dusty cellphnae protector bags. A “geisha” doll in a four sided glass display box. China bird dogs with phesants in their mouthes and ceramic seals lounging on rocks and painted porcelain little girls wearing bonnets with baskets on their arms. China clowns playing musical instruments, china flower arrangements the size of a teacup, china cats, china birds, a gold rimmed tea set. The high ceilinged walls in the family room/dining room and living room are covered with paintings, drawings and prints, crowded together, hung salon style. Finely detailed black and white caricatures of short, wizened old men with huge noses, some fitted out as doctors or pharmacists. Family portraits. A painting of a crowd under brightly colored umbrellas making its way through a rain silvered street. Also: a painting of a snowy lane flanked by huge bare trees inclining over the road to form a spectral archway, with one tiny dark figure crossing the lane. Also: a springtime scene featuring a brook running under a quaint stone bridge. Also: three children sitting on a pier baiting a fishing pole. A print of three young girls wearing white ruffled caps from an indeterminate historical period playing violin, flute, and cello. A framed poster for a Shakespeare festival. A painting of a kneeling girl pouring milk into a bowl for a black cat, also: a night seascape with the moon projecting a search beam of light onto black roiling water. All art hung slightly cockeyed, as though rattled by a mild earthquake that had never been completely recovered from.



Amy Gerstler’s books include Ghost Girl, Medicine, Crown of Weeds, Nerve Storm, Bitter Angel – winner of the National Book Critic’s Award – The True Bride, and Dearest Creature, named one of the notable books of the year by the New York Times. Gerstler was editor of the 2010 edition of the anthology Best American Poetry. Her work appears in numerous periodicals and anthologies.

Issue #1 July 2011
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