Vermeer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

by Shelley Wong

No profusion of fruit or spiraling lemon peel
in this Dutch interior, but a tea-colored map, pearls,
a tablecloth woven among anise and cardamom.

At her toilette, the young woman does not ask
for our devotion. Ultramarine edges her linen
and we hear the sea slap against ships.

Her braided bodice is articulated
like the stained glass window that lets light enter
in many directions, keeping us

looking in. The scene is cast
and re-cast as if it was lapis lazuli
refracting. As she lifts the window

and steadies the water pitcher, the suspense of her arms
is a bridge. Ships are not meant for harbors.
Is the map a reminder or a wish? The answer to where

we are meant to wander won’t be answered
praying to paint. Her face is a mirror
that looks away from us.



Read Shelley Wong’s “Wool” and “In the Hot-Air Balloon”

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