after Vermeer’s Milkmaid
She knows to hold it steady with her left
hand, as her right hand tilts the heavy jug –
too much milk and the children won’t eat
the pudding of yesterday’s bread, crumbled
ready on the blue cloth, the Virgin’s colour,
like her apron, yet her hands are red with sun
and heavy work; only the sleeves pushed up
beyond the elbow show tender, paler skin.
In the cool basement kitchen, light filters
through the high window with one cracked pane
to make a full moon of the jug’s glazed rim.
Her eyes look down; we cannot read her thoughts
but focus our attention with the same care
upon that bright stream that will never end.