Magazine article The Antioch Review

Portrait of a Child

Magazine article The Antioch Review

Portrait of a Child

Article excerpt

When I am ready to think of something else, finally, I think of a wind that runs like a river along a river, and trees bending into themselves with a will for breaking, a will to break from the soil and leave the lap of the horsefield where death has laid its head, its fire-red curls.

I think of the young painter who finds the body of a child, drowned in the river and cast on the stones that rattle in the white hands of the water.

At first, the painter thinks all the right things. He thinks of his own infant son.

But then he notices the beautiful blue of the child's lips like the blue rim of a bowl, and the wine of its blood spilled on a stone, and the dark loaves of its closed eyes resting on the table of its face,

like the meal Christ rises over, sweeping his hands apart, and around the table the Apostles all lean against each other, whispering, waiting, posing, even, for the thousands of painters not yet born,

all but Judas, who looks away, who has already broken the heavy bread and chews the grain, not thinking of his betrayal, of kissing sour wine from Christ's lips,

but of walking in the narrow street and heating the song of one bird that flew a hundred miles to rest in a tree, to pull its meal from a tent of worms. …

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