This poem is based on a painting by the Dutch painter Nicolaes Maes in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Young Girl Peeling Apples

It’s all
an elaborate pun:
the red peel of ribbon
twisted tightly about the bun
at the crown of her apple-

                     round head;
                the ribbon coming loose in the real
apple-peel she allows to dangle
     from her lifted hand; the table
          on which a basket of red

                waits to be turned into more
white-fleshed apples in a water-
     filled pail on the floor;
          her apron that fills and falls

                a lapful of apples piling on
like the apron itself, the napkin,
     the hems of her skirts – each a skin
          layered over her heart, just as he

                     who has
                painted her at her knife
paints the brush that puts life
     in her, apple of his eye: if
          there’s anything on earth but this

                concentration, this spiral
of making while unmaking while
     the world goes round, neither the girl
          nor he has yet looked up, or spoken.

from Sunday Skaters (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), © Mary Jo Salter 1994, used by permission of the author

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