My Father Looks at Vermeer for the Last Time
The old scientist leans on his walker.
His remaining eye is rheumy: what does it see?
He stares toward the dim chamber
three hundred forty-two paint-years away
where yellow from Dutch stained glass
draws the eye toward the astronomer’s face
blurring away from ours forever, his hands
leaping off the table with its astrolabe
and celestial globe alive with the zodiac—
The light of the mind, creamy,
skims this interior murky as an uncleaned
tank, an indecipherable star chart
and picture of Moses in the bulrushes
hung in the muddy gloaming,
the end of knowledge.
The one who set up still lifes
and gave us his paints, who led us
through infinite museums, hauls off
inscrutable as a tortoise. This will be
the last time we can coax him from his lair
to meet his old friend, Vermeer,
who so rarely stops by Minneapolis.
In any case, they no longer seem
to have anything to say to each other.
Barbara Louise Ungar is the author of three full-length poetry collections, Thrift; Charlotte Brontë, You Ruined My Life; and The Origin of the Milky Way, which won the Gival Press Poetry Award, an Independent Publisher’s Award, the Adirondack Center for Writing Poetry Award, and an Eric Hoffer Award. She is also the author of Haiku in English and several chapbooks. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in many journals, including Rattle, Salmagundi, Talking River, The Minnesota Review, Cream City Review, Literary Review, Global City Review, Dominion Review, Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Atticus Review, and The Nervous Breakdown. An essay is forthcoming in Rattle’s tribute to single-parent poets issue this fall. She has performed widely, including at the Dodge Poetry Festival, the Poetry Society of America, Poets’ House, St. Mark’s Poetry Project, Nuyorican Poets’ Café, Center for Book Arts, and Cornelia St. Café. A professor of English at the College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY, she teaches in its new MFA program.