Italy: Still Life by Nils Peterson

Still Life after seeing DaVinci’s Study of Violets & Welding Methods


The twin reading lamps behind the hotel room bed

are imitation Ming vases – green and decorated with

white curving plumes.  Their half shades reflect the light back

onto the wood paneling behind the bed.  The bed spread too

with a pattern made of small white geometrical figures.

Two white pillows are propped up against the pink bolster.

Judith’s head rests on one – her abandoned book split

apart into a triangle on her belly.  I see her foreshortened

like one of those pictures of Christ’s body being ministered to

after the crucifixion.  Her black stockinged feet, so huge

in this perspective, give a slight wiggle.  There is a small

snore in the air.  I had intended to sit in a street café and write

of the passing show, but is not this nap, seen this way,

as interesting as a swarm of Vespas in the street, even the one

carrying a man with a cigarette on his lip, a telephone

in his ear, being steered by one careless hand?


Nils Peterson is Professor Emeritus in English at San Jose State University. In 2009, he was chosen the first Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County. He has published poetry, science fiction, and articles on subjects as varied as golf and Shakespeare. In 2019, he was honored by SV Creates for his work as poet and teacher as the OnPage Laureate of the Year.

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