Poem by Frederick Feirstein

Three centuries have passed since she peeled fruit,
Dressed in red and brown and linen white.
Her knife glistening, though it’s still and mute.
She sits in silence for Nicolaes Maes.


A napkin on her lap folds in the light
Slipped from the wall, as if light stays.
A skein of skin, a cello’s backwards “S”
Waits for its twin, though the knife can’t turn.


Her hands hold still, as if they’ve come to rest
Upon a note a cellist’s stopped to coax us,
To keep our eyes, like Maes, simply in focus
On what’s to come, but what remains unheard.


Nicolaes Maes was a contemporary of Vermeer. The young woman lives in New York City at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.