Like a woman in Vermeer, she ironed
by the kitchen window, blue towel turbaned
about wet hair, three-quarters of her face
suffused in sun. From the cellar doorway
I called to her, unwilling to descend
those nightmare stairs alone, unable to compel her
to join me. Mother gazed out at the sky.
Ignored the televised warnings.
With terrifying calm, flapped a shirt
and spread it flat. Strange about beauty,
how it lives on the best of terms
next door to nothingness: if a twister came
she wanted to see it.
If I could paint that 1950s scene where
nothing finally happened, I'd have to crush
her best pearl and blend the powder in my palette—
how else catch that kitchen's luster?
A tiny wisp of vapor to suggest the hiss
as the white shirt's pressed
and the silvery iron becomes a curved mirror
in which a boy is captured and diminished as he calls.
Or perhaps I'd leave myself out, let that glossy surface
reflect only the blue plume spiraling up
(she sometimes smoked while Father traveled).
As in a waking dream, the iron glides down a sleeve
and there's no tornado, only warnings and warm sun
on a young woman's cheek and shoulder,
only the way the ordinary light of morning
ravishes her as she stares off
at something beyond the frame.