BY CATHIE SANDSTROM
after Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring
I, too, was a girl in a turban once.
Three centuries after you sat
for Vermeer, I stood in chill
February light in a mews studio,
a single bar electric fire at my bare
feet, my nipples knotted in the cold.
When my artist offered it, I thought
the turban strange. I didn’t know
he was echoing Vermeer—
who bid you bind your hair in Turkish fashion;
then handed you the lustrous pearl. The first,
you’d never wear, the second you could never own.
To draw a bird, one must study
its bone span, disregard its song.
Impersonal, a painter’s gaze
looks through who we are. Lays
bare the armature on which we hang.
No kind of intimacy, our raw
vulnerability that stares out
from the canvas. You and I—
part muse, part prop.
Conversation is a stone
skipped across a river. You and I,
where it touches the surface.