Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another.

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Painting With the Dead

In celebration of Poetry Month, I want to share one of my poems. It was first published in the Fifth Wednesday Journal.

Painting with the Dead
          Johannes Vermeer, The Milkmaid, 1658

Grind the dead bodies
of female cochineal insects.
Boil. Extract the red.

Distill the mucus of snails
for the purple preferred
by Roman emperors.
Pulverize semi-precious stones,
lapis lazuli for the radiant blue Vermeer used
in the resigned milkmaid’s apron.

Indian yellow for her blouse
from the urine of cattle
fed only mango leaves.

Egyptian brown squeezed
from the wrappings of mummies,
until these ancients oozed dry.

Bind the colors to canvas
with drippings of animal fat,
egg-white, curdled milk or wax.

I lower the shades,
sift cremated flakes scraped
from the painting of our marriage,

rearrange the scraps
of what death has left
for the living of one.

Stretching the shroud of new canvas,
I collect burnt skin,
grind iron oxides with ossified bone,

stir falling light into death’s decay,
paint darkness as it hardens

and sets.

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