The poem is taken from Marilyn’s ‘In Quiet Light’, which was published 8 years ago. This book is full of poems on the different Vermeer’s paintings, and this is the one on mine. It’s nice to have a look at them and see another different way of describing the works.
(As you already know, some of these poems are included in our book)
There is no flattery here: this thick-muscled,
broad-bottomed girl has milked cows at
dawn and carried sloshing pails
hung from a yoke on shoulders
broadened to the task. She kneaded
fat mounds of dough, sinking heavy fists deep
into voluptuous bread, innocent
and sensuous as a child in spring mud.
Evenings she mends and patches
the coarse wool of her bodice, smelling
her own sweat, sweet like grass and dung
in the barn or like warm milk
fresh from the udder.
Her world is grained and gritty, deep-
textured, rough-hewn, earth-toned, solid,
simple and crude. Reed and brass and clay,
wheat and flax and plaster turned to human use
have not come far from the loamy fields
where they were mined and gathered. The things
she handles are round and square, though-
fibered and strong, familiar as flesh to the touch.
The jug rests in her hand like a baby’s
bottom. She bends to her task like a mother
tending her child, hand and eye trained
to this work, heart left to its pondering.
How like tenderness, this look
of complete attention, how like a prayer
that blesses these loaves, this milk
(round like this belly, full like this breast),
given daily into her keeping, this handmaid
on whom the light falls,
haloed in white, hallowed by the gaze
that sees her thus, heavy, thick-lipped,
weathered and earthbound, blessed
and full of grace.