Kitchen Maid with Supper at Emmaus, or The Mulata
—after the painting by Diego Velàzquez, ca. 1619
She is the vessels on the table before her: the copper pot tipped toward us, the white pitcher clutched in her hand, the black one edged in red and upside down. Bent over, she is the mortar and the pestle at rest in the mortar—still angled in its posture of use. She is the stack of bowls and the bulb of garlic beside it, the basket hung by a nail on the wall and the white cloth bundled in it, the rag in the foreground recalling her hand. She's the stain on the wall the size of her shadow— the color of blood, the shape of a thumb. She is echo of Jesus at table, framed in the scene behind her: his white corona, her white cap. Listening, she leans into what she knows. Light falls on half her face.
From Thrall by Natasha Tretheway. Copyright © 2012 by Natasha Tretheway. Reprinted with permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
Natasha Trethewey, who has served as both the state poet laureate of Mississippi and the U.S. poet laureate, received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2007. She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2019.
Date Published: 2012-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/kitchen-maid-supper-emmaus-or-mulata