Evisceration of a Roebuck, with a Married Couple

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Flemish Portrait, 1625

Blood, starched linen, matted fur.
What makes a marriage?
The prosperous pair in black silk
stand over the guts laid bare;
he leans over his work,
knife at the ready
along his thumb,
to cut a further slice
from the folds of red-edged skin
while looking miserably elsewhere.
The deer is propped against a brilliant
lobster, downy antlers alert, echoing
the legs of the dead fawn
who twists, with uncanny grace,
to caress the husband’s hand
with its tiny hoof. She ignores
the platter of grapes she holds,
even the sprightly vine
curling and waiting to greet
the tongue hanging off the maw
of a pig’s inverted head.
White scatters like dabs of butter:
artificial clouds out the window,
the belly of a hanging calf,
the husband’s businesslike cloth,
set over his shoulder while he guts,
the wife’s achingly polished brow,
her hair pulled back as tight as
the pig’s tongue is loose,
like the tongue she refuses to use.