The Last Meal of Cristina Padual

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The rise of still life painting
in the early 1600s, according to art
history, reflected the growing urbanization
of society: a rising merchant class,
influx of ideas on how to live and spend
new wealth (including sugar and slaves)
trickling in from varied ports across
the globe. And thus upon a damask tablecloth,
a spread of wine in crystal decanters, some
carcass of roast pheasant or quail, quartered
lemons, flowers in a vase beginning to wilt,
an hourglass or sputtering candle— all
part of the conceit of “Vanitas,” the empty,
useless nature of material pursuit.

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Is this then still life too, this last forsaken meal
on a makeshift dining table somewhere on Commonwealth
Avenue in the middle of a humid night in March, now
cordoned off with crime scene tape? The newspaper says
she was a “guest relations officer” at a desultory shack
sporting the sign “Virgo Club;” says the man ten feet away
was her partner, allegedly involved in drugs: both of them
killed by masked gunmen riding up on a motorcycle.
A plateful of rice, dull silver spoon; sardines
in tomato sauce from a can: food achingly familiar
to the poor. And just beyond the empty glass, five
slices of watermelon, a few eaten almost to the rind.
The plastic yellow monobloc chair smeared with blood
that caught her head and torso when she fell.


~ based on a photograph taken by I-Witness documentarist and photojournalist Howie Severino; Manila, Philippines; used with permission of Howie Severino. Twitter: @Howieseverino

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