[after the painting “Preparation for the Funeral” by Cezanne (1869)]

The dying man was open and awake. He watched – his eyes as wide as God – as the doctor dug deeper inside. Not thinking, daydreaming, seeking something none of us could mutter or admit. “It was certainly in there at dinner,” I started to say, but the silence hushed me back inside the shadows, behind the candle’s light, as the doctor dug deeper, a theater of ears, his mother in a rocking chair, watching her only son on this Sunday, becoming something new.

10 Comments

  1. Rogan

    Benjamin, this is great. First, what a wild painting to play with. The shift to “I” in the middle is so offsetting which plays rather perfectly with the painting, I think. I’m not sure about all the ing words in that second line and think you can compress this a little further to great affect. But please don’t be put off by this note. I think it’s wonderful ekphrastic work.

  2. Jennifer Todhunter

    okay, hi Ben,. how are you.

    i read this once without referencing the painting and a few times after looking it up (and i know you are the boss when it comes to art and translation and things in this ilk, and i find this to be a beautiful summation of the scene in a beautifully impactful way and i guess the only thing i can suggest is that you take a tiny bit more time with the scene or the scene it builds in your mind and lay that out a bit more fully for the reader to digest.

    solid start, here – i really love this.

  3. Jonathan Cardew

    Ben,

    Wonderful you could join us! I was very excited to read your work, and I was happy to see that you chose a painting as your inspiration. I love the art that you post on your Twitter page, and this piece is such a curious and vivid scene (perfect fodder for a story).

    I might get a bit excited at times, but my first reaction was: holy shit. Like this is the best thing I’ve ever read (I often find myself saying, “this is the best thing I’ve ever eaten” too). I’m still reeling from “a theater of ears” — such evocative assonance and idea. And I really appreciate the dialogue in the middle, switching the focus and energy to the finish line with that sublime ending “…something new.”

    For me, this is ready to send out. Boom. Boom. I would only change “becoming” to “become” to make it sharper. You could always write a longer version (2x long) to see what it does, but the power of this piece, I think, comes from its brevity.

    Journal of Contemporary Condensed Arts comes to mind, reading this piece. Or you could send it high and wide.

    Wicked writing.

    Cheers,
    Jonathan

  4. Al Kratz

    Love it. Got me to look this painting up too and I had never seen that. Cezanne is awesome.

    Love the eyes wide as god, the theater of ears, the seeking of something none of us could mutter or admit.

    I like the jarring switch to first person who wants to say something awkward but gets hushed back into the shadows.

    And the becoming something new. Damn.

  5. Robert Vaughan

    Hi Ben, this is dazzling in its compression. I am also a fan of your ekphrastic work, and admire your scope of art in all of its various meanings. That second line: ‘He watched – his eyes as wide as God – as the doctor dug deeper inside.’
    I’m all IN! Wow. And I agree with possibly consider(ing) chang(ing) some of your -ing end(ing)s.
    Still, what a great start to an unusually, marvelous piece. Tinker, but not overly so. Have you considered an entire collection of ekphrastic work? Kristine Ong Muslim’s We Bury The Landscape is outstanding in this vein.

  6. Len Kuntz

    Hi Ben,

    This was a haunt, through and through. It’s moody and dark, yet somehow hopeful. You do a ton of work in a very tight space. I loved it, and this “his eyes wide as God” and this “a theater of ears.” Really terrific. There’s a site/online magazine called Ekphrastic Review run by Lorette C. Luzajic that you might look at. Your piece would be a perfect fit for it.

  7. John Steines

    Hello Ben, I also read before referencing the painting, and it all made so much sense to me, more so with the image, yet I also so love what it brought me to without the image. I’m amazed at what you pack into the paragraph, and the reference I read into a perceptive magic illness, stress, pending death. So nce to engage a read into your work. Best.

  8. David O'Connor

    Ben, Lydia Davis would be proud of this one. Some of these clauses are magic–a theatre of ears–becoming something new–a perfect finale. This is sparse and good, well done!

  9. Wilson Koewing

    Ben,

    Read this once without looking at the painting and then after looking at the painting. It’s definitely more satisfying after looking at the painting. This is an intriguing concept. I could imagine a book like this. Just little descriptions of the writer’s interpretation of paintings. I also like how as long as the writing is competent, it sort of lends itself to being unable to be critiqued.

    Best,
    Wilson

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