Vermeer

By Debora Greger b. 1949 Debora Greger
Every seaworthy vessel a woman
whose mate, eloquent of how she handled   
under the worst of weathers, hailed his goddess   
of wet fire, handmaid and dockside whore.

Over the courtyard’s dry dock, linens snapped.   
Brisk was the wind that claimed divine right   
to salvage whatever tore loose,
brisk at the docks the trade

in foreign plumage, and the milliner,
arms full of wings, who tripped in a puddle   
that brimmed with sky. Past the known world,   
past the map that decorated a room

with scalloped waters where ships the size   
of fingernail parings were never snagged   
by the dragon-sharp islands,
a keel of leaf scraped across a pane.

A branch scratched endearments on the air   
it then brushed clean as sand.
Had the woman rereading a letter
looked to the window casting her light,

she could have seen almost to land’s end,   
the salt sea broken into semaphore
flashing its glassy code for tears
back to shore, seen almost to the cage on deck,

the pigeons gray as the mind,
some to bear messages home the first days out,   
the rest to fatten in the hold.

Debora Greger, “Vermeer” from Off-Season at the Edge of the World. Copyright © 1994 by Debora Greger. Used with the permission of the author and the University of Illinois Press.

Source: Off-Season at the Edge of the World: Poems (1994)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Debora Greger b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Nature, Painting & Sculpture, Arts & Sciences, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

 Debora  Greger

Biography

Poet and artist Debora Greger earned her BA from the University of Washington and her MFA from the University of Iowa. She has published numerous books of poetry, including Men, Women, and Ghosts (2008), and her work has been included in issues of Best American Poetry. As a reviewer for Publishers Weekly observed, Greger “rarely rejoices, though she can surely console; her pruned-back, autumnal sensibility and her balanced lines . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Nature, Painting & Sculpture, Arts & Sciences, Seas, Rivers, & Streams

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.