Kaaren Kitchell


For some it's sound, for others smell or taste
or touch: the way you say rue, the astonishing
complexity of fresh bread smells
in Poilane's, summer rain sprinkling my arms;
but always it's some living scene that stops me.

The night we passed the doorway of a narrow shop
on Rue Monge, jetlagged, a little lost,
seeing her head bent over the work table,
red hair cut like Colette's, doing something fine
with her hands: Vermeer's Lacemaker.

We watched in silence, the room too full of
blossoming to take in all at once:
Still life with beauty. She tied together
tiny roses and lavender flowers
with a spray of white, elegant and wild.

I thought again, Vermeer: a woman deep inside
something she loves, the room as beautiful as she.
After a while she looked up and smiled, went back
to her task. We stepped inside. I asked her
in my raggedy French who the bouquet was for.

"A couple about to be married," she said.
"So are we," I offered. She gazed up from her work.
She was 60 or so, dark brown eyes like a sunflower's center,
her face as open as flowers,
the faces she looked at all day.

Her name was Violette: "I was born on May Day," she said,
then she plucked a handful of rose buds woven
with baby's breath, tied it with a silver ribbon
and handed it to me. Aphrodite,
Vermeer and Colette all sang,
This marriage will be blessed.

First published in Spillway.