Ten Imaginary Still Lifes

Joe Brainard

Illustration by the author.

Boke Press

Copyright © 1991 by Joe Brainard
Copyright © 1997 by John Brainard

Imaginary Still Life No. 1

I close my eyes. I see a light-green vase. A very pale light-green vase. Right beside it sits something black. Something small. It is a small black ashtray. Getting smaller by the moment. Until--really--it is hardly more than--now--a tiny speck.

Imaginary Still Life No. 2

I close my eyes. I see white. Lots of white. And gray. Cool gray. Cool gray fabric shadows. (It is a painting!) With no yellow. By a very old man.

Imaginary Still Life No. 3

I close my eyes. I see bright orange. Almost red. A touch of purple. A speck of black. And a thick bluish stem. An exotic flower of some sort. Driftwood. Bamboo. A figurine. Chartreuse. (1953!) This is a Polynesian still life.

Imaginary Still Life No. 4

I close my eyes. I see a white statue (say 10" high) of David. Alabaster. And pink rose petals, sprinkled upon a black velvet drape. This is a sissy still life. Silly, but pretty. And in a certain way almost religious. "Eastern" religious. This still life is secretly smiling.

Imaginary Still Life No. 5

I close my eyes. I see a charming nosegay of violets in an ordinary drinking glass. That's all.

Imaginary Still Life No. 6

I close my eyes. I see old fruit. Pots and pans. And various and scattered utensils. Brown. Art. Dutch. By nobody in particular. (Museum.) And so, on to the Frans Hals.

Imaginary Still Life No. 7

I close my eyes. I see a lazy guitar. A little potted cactus plant. And the rainbow blendings of very bright colors woven into a poncho, slung across a hand-painted wooden chair. (1955!) This is a "tourista" postcard still life.

Imaginary Still Life No. 8

I close my eyes. I see pink. And green. And gold. All mixed up together. But now slowly evolving into three distinctive shapes. (. . . .) It is a pink kimono, gently discarded upon the corner of a green dressing table, which enters the picture frame at a very sharp angle. Behind it stands a gold screen of three panels. In this particular Japanese still life one gets the impression that something is going on that cannot be seen.

Imaginary Still Life No. 9

I close my eyes. I see . . . upon the corner of a black lacquered end table I see a clear crystal ashtray, containing a long white cigarette butt, crushed up into the figure "Z." Pink smears along the filter's edge implicates a woman. And now I can smell blue smoke in the air, lingering from a most recent exit, perhaps in a huff. A dozen dark red roses in a very tall vase completes this elegant--if icy--still life. A still life with a story. And probably a sad one.

Imaginary Still Life No. 10

I close my eyes. I see something copper. (A tea pot with missing lid.) And dried cornflowers in an earthenware pot. Against a brown velvet drape. "Sniff": I can smell last week's clay still in the air. As Mrs. Black (my high school art teacher) leans over my shoulder, trying not to be too impressed with the dashing highlights I have no doubt overindulged in, to impress her with.