A woman of thirty pours the inch or so of milk
left in a jug, sets the jug high on a shelf
inside a small cupboard because the children
from next door are to stay the night, she’ll
not risk their picking at its precious glaze.
She takes her ring from beside the tap,
slips it back onto her third finger.
She hears steps on the path.
will happen after every painting for a long
time yet. It may have been war,
a sudden wrenching of implacable grief,
diseases arrived from the unburied,
children clattering in only days until
they are shunted east.
And the stranger
announcing, ‘There is something here,’ and her hand
on the lip first then the jug’s smooth curving,
it was lifted, so Jug & Woman
may have been the title again as it was and was
how many hundred times in that small
kitchen, its imagined canvas, the deluging back
of ordinariness so lovely, to what can one
compare it? And the steps always arriving.
It will happen next.
from Blame Vermeer (Victoria University Press 2007), © Vincent O’Sullivan, 2007, used by permission of the author.