Lake Effect, Spring 2003, Volume 7: The Vermeer Moment

Al Maginnes


The Vermeer Moment

Say it is a gathering, a slow
coming on that whispers
this world might be made
not of noise and distraction only,
but a mosaic of pauses,
tiny limbos: the cork plied
from the mouth of the bottle,
the wooden match just scratched
into fire, the instant of air
and wine tending one another
before the golden weight
in the bottom of the glass
the hand lifts into the ribbons
of sun lacing through curtains
to darken the wine to the shade
of honey, nearly amber, color
the tongue aches to hold.
In such stillness we believe
we can read the question
hanging between the offer
and acceptance of a gift
or in the gaze of a picture’s
one tenant who watches someplace
beyond the picture’s plane
of vision. This is
how we recall one another,
not by motion but gesture:
head bent to an angle,
the rib of light that scores
your knife as you chop
peppers to warm our soup,
because, once, a handful
of times, the patient confluence
of brush and paint and light held
those figures long enough
to let us see through them
to the moment of paint’s flowing
into motion, into the next word
being said, the hand making
the incomplete gesture, the visitor,
long-awaited, now visible
on the crest of an unseen hill.