portion of the artwork for Issam Zineh's poetry

Issam Zineh


Dear Reader,

Since I can’t paint, I decided it best to write. You’ve probably heard by now: the last thing the world needs is another literary moralist. Turns out you were right about Cole; he wasn’t Canadian as I originally thought—technically, not an American either. While we’re on the subject, it was the Hudson River School, and the old man in the dry goods shop was reciting “Thanatopsis” from memory. So you’re 3 for 3! Congratulations.

Anyway, just a short note to let you know I was thinking of you. By the way, I know I told you I could paint in the last letter. I lied. But, if I could, you would undoubtedly find yourself the subject—a majestic little nude posing against the clean angles of the metropolis.


Still Life with Oranges and Goblet of Wine

Even for those who’ve never heard of trompe
, there’s a sense of being cheated. Think

of Wallace Stevens’s sun—a sectioned,
truncated piece of citrus. The rest of us are

stunned by what happened to the forsythia
out back. The asters won’t come until summer.

Much has to happen between now and then. You
are a curious uncharacteristic absence. Here,

a couple of unpeeled oranges clenched shut
and somehow receptive to the human version

of hunger. The phallic cackle of the goblet’s open
mouth. It’s filled with orange Gatorade for effect.

Hitchcock used chocolate syrup for the shower scene
in Psycho; felt it more realistic than stage blood.

The open fruit on the table is bright and industrial.
Maybe, in the end, you are not missing.

—“Cole” is the painter Thomas Cole (1801–1848). The title for the second section comes from a painting by John Frederick Peto (1854–1907).

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 56 | Fall/Winter 2020