Woman at the Window

Like a woman in Vermeer, she ironed 
by the kitchen window, blue towel turbaned 
about wet hair, three-quarters of her face 
suffused in sun. From the cellar doorway 
I called to her, unwilling to descend 
those nightmare stairs alone, unable to compel her 

to join me. Mother gazed out at the sky.
Ignored the televised warnings.
With terrifying calm, flapped a shirt 
and spread it flat. Strange about beauty, 
how it lives on the best of terms 
next door to nothingness: if a twister came 

she wanted to see it. 
If I could paint that 1950s scene where 
nothing finally happened, I'd have to crush 
her best pearl and blend the powder in my palette—
how else catch that kitchen's luster? 
A tiny wisp of vapor to suggest the hiss 

as the white shirt's pressed 
and the silvery iron becomes a curved mirror 
in which a boy is captured and diminished as he calls. 
Or perhaps I'd leave myself out, let that glossy surface
reflect only the blue plume spiraling up 
(she sometimes smoked while Father traveled). 

As in a waking dream, the iron glides down a sleeve 
and there's no tornado, only warnings and warm sun 
on a young woman's cheek and shoulder, 
only the way the ordinary light of morning 
ravishes her as she stares off 
at something beyond the frame.

From Orpheus on the Red Line by Theodore Deppe. Copyright © 2009 by Theodore Deppe. Used by permission of Tupelo Press. All rights reserved.