The lazy man watches snowfall flake from the sky
and loses count of the ways he could begin his life.
Clouds invest his yard with possibilities,
the several bleak postures of expectant canvas.
He could describe his discovery: the series of silk-screens
whose rotations sift the flurry of brushstrokes
off surfaces of air to the ground.
Or he could remember the future as he saw it when a boy:
glass panes connected like collapsing folds of accordion,
frosted doors fanned out into pages of a book standing on end——
how he himself was only visible through the fish-
flesh translucency as a bright, opaque halo.
The first words are the hardest, too——first forgotten,
least believed, as soon distorted as
rehearsed——so beginning and ending to him are all in all.
East and West dithering over datelines? Imagine.
So an oak is the printout of a code——are seeds
wholly unrevised by wind and rain?
Roanoke's dissolute first unsettling: his every project
reads the same. Continents of failure, the inert available.
He applies a coat of gesso just so, and reviews.
Were he to compose the lines of the future,
to render the individual apple and pear,
particular hair, table wall, or ear,
it would bear little consequence for his still life.
Tomorrow he will study endings.
Today his refusal has the air of a beginning.
It has taken all winter. It began when he left home
this morning. It began when he confessed to knowing nothing
even as he assembled objects for his painting. It began when he
decided to measure moments according to the returns of waxwings.
He starts now, as he divests an acorn of its plaid beret.
* * *
D.S. Butterworth grew up in Seattle and went to college at Western Washington University in Bellingham. He earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He taught as a lecturer at Chapel Hill and spent four years teaching at Morehead State University in eastern Kentucky. He currently teaches literature and creative writing at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. "Still Life: The Disorder of Beginning" was published in Butterworth's collection, The Radium Watch Dial Painters.