Still Life with Oranges

"Untitled" n.d.
by Joseph Beeson

A box hinged in the middle and open, like a
replication of two confinements, something

to escape or be lifted from. So form
appears as imposition and restraint

answering what is deep and unquestioned
and constantly misspelled -- commitment

one such word, like a shrinking, and life
struggles onward drinking freedom

in sometimes bitter gulps. But here,
the brush of an artist bristles against

one edge and two oranges spill from a shape
like the wooden clothespins of another age,

a figure shrouded in white, arms held
to the side and backed by shadow and light.

When I was a child, someone took my photograph
at the beach, and whether my pose was due to cold

or wind in my hair or the need to rise to an image
of strict behavior, I am stiff as a soldier. Held

by the camera’s insistence, I was what I was.
But now I see one edge of the box is missing,

and the pale figure balances loosely before
emptiness and an orange fire. As leaning

from form and its blackened edge, the heart
clamors from a body that can only partly contain it.

Cream City Review, 2003 Poetry Contest Winner