It is an ancient scene before me:
a wooden table for banqueting
(a rugged cross for crucifying,)
with fruit ripened and cradled in baskets
(a heart of flesh cupped by sagging ribs,)
and roses in full bloom strewn about,
(His head wilting in anguish beneath a crown,)
a collection of life—
(a sacrifice of life)
with fine strings, prose, and ink wells.
(with lashings, thorns, and driven nails.)
The perfect still life—yet amidst it all:
a skull with black sockets—
moribund yet hungry.
(a divine mouth in grimace—
wine-soaked yet thirsting.)
Or “Remember you must die.”
(Hodie mecum eris en Paradiso.
or “Today you shall be with me in Paradise.”)
Oh, it is the way of man—
that on our last day we go down to the dead!
(Oh, it is the way of Christ—
that on the third day he rose again!)
(Selah and Amen.)
“Still Life,” read by Kimberly Phinney.
Bleary eyes, sinews, joints,
I wash away
the day’s remains.
And I think:
I want to di(v)e.
I plunge a foot below
(a cross at 20,000 leagues)—
where spine and porcelain
in forever pose.
I blink and gaze
through murky grays
and think how warm
this hazy nothingness
might be (without me).
And I hold my breath
until the burning fire
builds and buoys,
parting my bodies of water
(a little Red Sea).
I emerge and gasp
in this broken flesh He bought—
joints, sinews, and bleary eyes—
And I think:
I want to live.
“Bath,” read by Kimberly Phinney.
Kimberly Phinney is a teacher of English, professional photographer, wife, mother, and child of God. Her writing has been published in places such as Christianity Today’s Ekstasis Magazine, Calla Press, and Harness. After almost dying from severe illness, she is now earning her doctorate in counselling so she can help others who have suffered.
Artwork: “A vanitas still-life with a skull, a pistol, a lute with broken strings, a flute” by Joris van Son, 1651. Public Domain.