A Stone Skipped across Water


Read 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.

A military brat and wanderer, Cathie Sandstrom has lived in five countries and ten states. Twice a Pushcart nominee in 2017, her work has appeared in The Southern Review, Ploughshares, Ekphrasis, Cider Press Review, The Comstock Review and Lyric, among others. Anthologies include Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond. Her poem “You, Again” is in the artists’ book collection at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. She lives in Sierra Madre, against the San Gabriels north of Los Angeles, where she still expects to hear from the Pentagon any day. https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/cathie-sandstrom

Image Credit: “Flight,” Shelby Prindaville

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