Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1
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Woman Weighing Gold
     after Pieter de Hooch

She is up early, weighing the household gold,
the wall’s worn damask gilt in the rising sun.
Under the minute attention of this privileged hour
and the moon of the clockmaker’s glass, she sees
the ducats cunningly clipped. This marketplace
sleight of hand, the traveling charlatans
will threadbare her children’s calicos. The girls’
gingham dresses must become half-sleeved blouses,
their lengthening wrists dangling. On the western side
of the house, they drift in the warmth of their bodies,
limb-tangled. She loves to lie with them, the smell
of the air from their lungs deeper than torn pine limbs,
but their slumber eludes her. Oh, to enter that privileged
space! Anxiety slices the rind of her sleep, enters her seeded
interior, and she wakes wet in the bedclothes, rises
to a household eroding to her husband’s soiled silks. Each crease
holds its secret in the washtub she rakes them through.
Even the cat’s coat in tatters, he strokes her mornings
like no one else, warmer than the fires banked in the stove
and vibrating his living frame. All exits are complicated; shadows
bar the vestibule. Once she loved that entryway’s leaded glass,
but today how its perspective jeers at her!: the interior doors,
the exterior doors, a jerry-built gate and the alleyway
to the marketplace where all life—caged, stunted or strung up—is for sale,
the booths of skinned rabbits, pheasant carcasses ready for plucking
in her kitchen and, oh, the hens soon to be throttled,
their opalescent eggs waiting like ducats in each man’s oiled purse.  end

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