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all but unnoticed on the oilcloth there—where three

gold coins, & a silver one,

have casually been placed. The woman focuses

on the equilibrium of

the scales, which contain nothing except sun-glint . . . Now

the shadow-hand—the almost

subliminal shadow caressing the left side of her linen

bonnet—lends support

to her head, as she leans gently back against the hand.

Behind her, on the wall,

the Bosch-like spirits writhe in faceless terror. Christ,

in his golden nimbus, floats

above their heads. But it barely registers—the Judgment

scene, the reckoning—

as relevant, in light of her, her certitude

suspended in the air

from thumb & index finger . . . It won’t come again—

this equipoise between

the figure & the room. Vermeer is thirty-two—

the death-carts creaking through

the black smoke of North Europe. Twenty-four thousand dead

in Amsterdam this year.

In June, the war with England will resume. So it

won’t come again, I’m thinking,

not with such full-bodied ease. But for the moment,

here she stands. Is realized.

Michael White

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