Hanging Fowl

Quinton Soemardi


      After a Photocopy of the Painting by Soutine 1924

I do not look at it the way it was meant to be seen. It is darker this way. Photocopied into blacks and grays. The white highlight of the bird in the center space is brushed in wildly, the strokes seem to have touched the canvas briefly, twisting like a dead bird on the ground. And then—the dark passage of black paint across the bird's neck. It is violent. The bird's mouth hangs open, its neck missing in the void of the stroke.

It could have been red in the original. A thick band of blood. But the blackness here reminds me more of absence. Now I think of my father in the photo where he stands in our yard. His right hand holding a headless chicken by its scaly foot, his left the knife. There is a dark stain of blood on his shirt, he is calling out to someone out of frame, he does not know we are watching, the sun moves behind some trees, a shadow passes over his face.