Woman Holding a Balance

If the painting-within-the-painting, hanging on the wall

behind the standing woman—

with its sinners wailing at Christ’s feet on Judgment Day—

if that might be one way

of looking at it, then the woman herself, who half

obscures the painting, is

another. All we know of her is what we see:

how—weightless, effortless

as flame—she stands to face the lightfall over the umber,

oilcloth-covered table.

How each of the nails on her right hand, at the center of

the composition, burns

like phosphor. How—what word would one use?—beneficent?

her aspect is: the source

of light from beneath her skin, such sweetly sculptural eyelids

& cheekbones, blessing of

her waistline’s fullness. Objects here are neither more

nor less than what they seem

to be: the table, for instance, offering itself—

the ornate carvings of

its vase-shaped legs—to the benediction of her touch,

her left-hand fingertips

alight on its very edge. Or the strand of pearls, with its yellow

satin ribbon, furled

all but unnoticed on the oilcloth there—where three

gold coins, & a silver one,

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