My Grandfather’s Last Supper
It was vintage Da Vinci, Jesus and disciples
making blessings at their long table hung
over our Formica one, a masterpiece
configured for suburban consumption—
The Last Supper lined and numbered
on a cardboard canvas accompanied by
burnt umber corresponding to the number
nine and carmine to number ten. The paint-
by-number made an impressionist of Da Vinci—
dining room figured out of pigment changes
and articulations of shadow and light. What did
my grandfather know of The Masters? After
the War he left the navy to build houses.
On our house he built a porch anchored to
a ship’s bell. He was always nursing a hernia,
always the color of red ochre and bent over
some project in the backyard, sweat beading
on his lower back, a square nitroglycerin patch
stuck somewhere out of sight. All the years
of his absence allowed us to make nothing
much of the hours put into the painting—
the board about two feet by three feet; the many
small pots of paint required for a kit like this;
the tiny brushes spread out on a vinyl tablecloth.
His Last Supper was a movable feast through
the decades until it sagged a few steps from the trash
that lived in my mother’s basement, and all I can do
now is dab sun coming in casement windows,
tassels of corn waving to him from the garden.
I can only color him with reading glasses on,
white hair combed back into a tidy pompadour,
and pose him over the canvas where he takes
great care with the feet, such thin straps on
the sandals, until the image of Jesus’s final meal
assembles under his hand while Connie Francis
clicks through her eight tracks on the stereo.
Sonia Greenfield is the author of two full-length collections of poetry. Letdown, released in March, was selected for the 2020 Marie Alexander Series and published by White Pine Press. Her collection, Boy With a Halo at the Farmer’s Market, won the 2014 Codhill Poetry Prize and was published in 2015. Her chapbook, American Parable, won the 2017 Autumn House Press chapbook prize. Her work has appeared in a variety of places, including in the 2018 and 2010 Best American Poetry. She lives with her husband, son, and Shiloh Shepherd in Minneapolis where she teaches at Normandale College and edits the Rise Up Review. More at soniagreenfield.com.