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In response to Johannes Vermeer’s painting, “Officer and Laughing Girl”
Birthed by a fusion of atoms,
The light traveled
Tens of thousands of years from its celestial source.
Passing through beveled glass,
Slowed into blue,
Reflected backwards by leaded diamonds,
It found entrance at an open, inward angled window.
By the blood red shoulder of the officer,
The light streamed toward the laughing girl
And the thick white headdress softly folded
To reveal her shining face.
It played with the golden sheen of her bodice
And startled the metallic trim on her sleeves
Into vertical streamers.
The light caressed the softly opening fingers of the girl
As she gestured tentatively
Across the table
To the shadowed figure of the officer,
Firmly seated before her.
The light glanced
At the large wall map,
A small stretch of the great universe,
Placed within the direct view of the officer,
And behind the girl.
Beaming in chiaroscuro relief,
Bounded by map wall
And table’s edge,
A slender bridge of tabletop
Separated the girl
From her destiny.
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. 1985
You are so very young.
We crouch together on the dark beach
Just beyond the tall dunes
That separate us
From our campsite.
Sand clings to your shoulders
Like sugar dusting a donut.
You try to spring away,
Laughing, uncoiling toward adventure.
I beseech you with a touch
To wait; to listen; to see.
We hear the ocean
Rise and fall; approach and retreat.
Plankton glimmers on the sea,
An ancient bioluminescent enticement
That lures our gaze
Toward water’s edge.
She slips from the tide.
Her flippers flounder in this foreign place
Til they find temporary purchase on our beach.
You and I briefly
Stand in silent witness.
She is so very large.
She heaves her body with purpose,
Digging intently in the salty sand.
Suddenly she stops; rests.
She exhales, a slow, sonorous sigh.
She turns back to sea.
It is a false crawl.
You and I head back to camp.
Beyond the dunes
Our path is lit by the kerosene lamp
Placed by your father.
Vermeer Admonishes Dali
(The Ghost of Vermeer of Delft Which Can Be used as a Table, oil on panel, 1934 by Salvador Dali)
I thought you admired me.
I can see that you don’t or won’t.
Or maybe you just admire yourself more.
Yet, here I am.
I, the master of perspective,
The painter of gorgeous fabrics and beautiful women,
Am I nothing more than a ghost?
A long-legged, skinny table!
An emaciated man clutching a crutch,
My shoe is way out of reach.
Oh, and that glass of wine on my knee
Quite the touch!
If I am the ghost that haunts you,
Haunts all your attempts to prove your grand master’s credentials,
Then twirl your silly mustache
Passing through the kitchen,
Pours red wine,
Fruity with a little bite,
Into a funky green glass.
Through the dining room,
Onto the deck, dark and quiet,
Smell of pine and elm—
Cape Cod’s peace—
She sits alone.
Watching the moon rise,
Not thinking about tomorrow or the day after.
Nothing to say, nowhere to be, nothing to do.
Brooding between sips, she muses:
Do I have to decide?
Is it all just money?
Marrying? Having kids?
What’s there for me?
A soft click on the stairs,
In the moonlight shadows emerge
A dog-like snout, matted fur, a long bushy tail.
Bright blue eyes discern
Small, piercing yellow ones
Moving carefully, quietly,
Settling the trembling glass in her hands,
She slowly opens the sliding door
And steps back inside.
Stopping in the kitchen,
Refilling the funky green glass with red wine,
Becca rouses her dozing family.
Hey, you know,
There’s a coyote on the deck.
If art can inspire poetry, can poetry inspire performance art? Absolutely! Click here to enjoy our added page of events and resources for National Poetry Month, 2021, highlighted by your friends at OLLI reading some of their favorite poems. — Editor
Linda Dunk has been an OLLI member since 2013. She has taken more than 50 courses in History, Humanities, Lifestyles, Literature & Writing, Technology and Poetry. She is a member of the OLLI SIG Write Time for Poets and is also a member of the OLLI Outdoors Hiking SIG.
Kathy Winarski has taken many OLLI courses in poetry, literature, art, architecture, music, history and science. She is also a member of Write Time for Poets SIG.