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.