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How the Painter Hungers
Vermeer’s Lady Writing a Letter
by Christine Gelineau
My mother-in-law, Maria, is a discreet
and practical woman: in the interests
of art and income, she grants me
a necessary latitude we contrive
to shield from her daughter. Maria understands,
as Catherina never would, how the painter hungers
for the shape his brush pursues: the porcelain
curve of a bowl, the pearlescent
folds of the oyster on its shell, or
a woman draped in fur and silk,
the wanton necklace dropped by her hand.
Maria indulges me, but indulgence
has its limits. There are always limits.
And so, much as one misdirects the eye
until flat appears flesh, substantial
and warm, one distracts one’s own heart
with luster, sheen. I am an acolyte now
to the plushness of light, consecrated
to the sacrament of shadows.
I subsist on the rituals of shape,
Pure hue is my sustaining eucharist,
and I crave radiance like air.
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